Formal & quasi-formal infrastructure provision in 'slums': a socio-ecological systems perspective

Authors: Shruti Syal*, University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: infrastructure, inequity, water quality, waste management, urban informality, socio-ecological system
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In megacity 'slums', while 'formal' provision of infrastructure/services is still contested over issues of legitimacy, settlements are incrementally gaining access to electricity, water, and now sanitation. Yet in Delhi, stormwater drain-adjacent settlements discard waste into drains that flow unimpeded into river Yamuna, used downstream for irrigation. Applying New Institutionalism framework, I explore why 'formal' (via regulatory agencies) and 'quasi-formal' (regulatory agencies and NGOs) forms of provision result in improper waste disposal. I examine State and National policies and analyze interviews with 56 'slum' dwellers, 14 regulatory agency officials, and 9 NGOs to delineate how 'rules' produce adverse 'incentives' for stakeholders, resulting in 'behaviours' that produce the 'outcome' of waste disposal into drains. Restrictive rules of provision and ambiguities in responsibilities of regulatory agencies result in denial of formal access for 67% of settlements and lock them into a cycle of informality-where lack of services stems from being classified as 'slums', but lack of services is a reason for being classified as 'slums'. Where provided, infrastructure is inadequate, inaccessible, infrequent and incomplete, due to "regulatory overlap" of agencies interacting without coordination-the shelter authority provides toilets but no sewerage (falling under the water authority), resulting in a transfer of human excreta into drains. Quasi-formal provision is incremental, planned to have a limited lifespan, lacks O&M responsibility division, prices out households that cannot afford to pay, thus dis-incentivizing people from using infrastructure. Viewing ‘slums’ as socio-ecological systems rather than an (isolated) informal settlements produces a compelling perspective on infrastructure provision and environmental planning.

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