Planning versus Reality: Politics of land-use change along the river Yamuna in Delhi

Date and Time

November 29, 2011

10:15 am to 12:00 pm


The presentation will examine the dynamic land-use changes along the banks of the river Yamuna and the recent plans to create a biodiversity zone along the river in the context of Delhi’s transformation into a world-class city by 2021. Based on orders by the High Court of Delhi concerning illegal encroachments on the riverbed and their negative environmental impact on the Yamuna, almost all slum settlements have been demolished along the river in recent years. Simultaneously, urban (infrastructure) mega-projects like the Akshardham Temple, the Commonwealth Games Village, an IT office park and two metro depots have been developed on the floodplain regardless of their negative environmental impacts. The most recent plans for Delhi’s riverfront, however, aim to create a biodiversity zone all along the river focusing on green and recreational spaces. The presentation will outline the inconsistency of urban planning and the role of the courts with respect to environmental protection of the Yamuna floodplain. While removing slum settlements and farmers from the banks, developing large scale transportation infrastructure, planning parks and recreational spaces, the Yamuna still suffers from an inadequate flow of water (except during monsoon) and an extremely high degree of pollution. The talk will take a holistic approach to understand the challenges of urban environmental governance in fast growing mega-cities. Alex Follmann is a human geographer and is based at the Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany. He has been a visiting PhD-candidate at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi from October 2009 to April 2010 under DAAD’s exchange program ‘New Passage to India’. Since April 2011, his research has been funded by the German National Academic Foundation. His main research themes explore the interrelations between urban development and environmental degradation, with a focus on Delhi as it is transformed into a global Metropolis. In order to rethink the notions of bourgeois environmentalism, environmental awareness, environmental activism and urban environmental politics, he has carried out extensive fieldwork along the Yamuna river and studied its monsoonal floods and impact on the 2010 Commonwealth Games. This is the twenty second in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society, and politics. For further information, please contact: Marie-Hélène Zerah at or Partha Mukhopadhyay at