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A Political Ecology Perspective

Geographies of Drinking Water (In)securities in Peri-urban Hyderabad

​A political ecology framework has been employed to analyse patterns of drinking water (in)securities peculiar to peri-urban geographies. Primary field data have been used in the analysis. The many institutional arrangements that have emerged in peri-urban Hyderabad and how such arrangements have shaped the water ecology in the region and outcomes with respect to access to drinking water are described here. It argues that the water environment, both in terms of scarcity and pollution, and the social relations around water, co-produce each other, in sometimes unexpected ways. A primary finding is that the varying degrees and forms of private sector engagement in the drinking water sector produce different kinds of sub-geographies of distress in peri-urban spaces.

This paper draws on a completed project “Ensuring Water Security in Metropolitan Hyderabad,” undertaken by SaciWATERs on water markets and water insecurities in peri-urban Hyderabad. The paper’s primary aim is to describe and analyse patterns of drinking water (in)securities peculiar to peri-urban geographies. The study also emphasises the impact of a changing governance system that has come into existence as a response to the rapid urbanisation observable around most large cities in India.

The paper employs a political ecology framework and borrows from a body of work that specifically considers urban contexts (Angelo and Wachsmuth 2015; Moore 2007; Heynen et al 2006). The separation of society from nature has led to the emergence of a framework that rationalises the unbridled exploitation of nature. However, while nature may initially serve as a base, social relations eventually become inseparable from nature in that the former operate “in and through” the latter, and in turn, transform the natural environment and social relations (Heynen et al 2006). Inbuilt into the urban political ecology (UPE) framework is the concept of urban metabolism, which portrays the interaction between nature and society as one where the city is seen as a system of conduits that are neither circular nor predetermined—they are associated with growth, accumulation, and flow of capital, where the latter is the only constant (Gandy 2004; Moore 2007; Angelo and Wachsmuth 2015). The 10-point manifesto presented in Heynen et al’s (2006) book, In the Nature of Cities: Urban Political Ecology and the Politics of Urban Metabolism, which develops the UPE theoretical framework, observes that the theory’s political project is to enhance democratic principles in the socio-environmental domain “through which a more equitable distribution of social power and a more inclusive mode of the production can be achieved” (Heynen et al 2006).

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Updated On : 27th Sep, 2019

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