A Social-Ecological Systems Framework Analysis of Infrastructure & Service Provision in Urban 'Slums'

Authors: Shruti Syal*, University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Urban and Regional Planning, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: social-ecological systems, environmental planning, waste management, water pollution, informal settlements
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Delhi’s stormwater drains serve as supplementary sewerage, emptying into the polluted river Yamuna. While pipelines are constructed to intercept sewage entering drains, redirecting it to treatment plants to facilitate wastewater reuse, this infrastructure cannot handle the additional volume and fecal coliforms from ~1.5 million people living in drain-adjacent 'slums' (DASs) that are not factored into plans (Syal 2020a). The institutional framework disincentivizes regulatory agencies from providing ‘slums’ durable facilities and consistent service (Syal 2020b), so their waste enters drains (Syal 2020c). Since waste disposal is used to justify evictions (Ghertner 2015) despite drain pollution predominantly occurring upstream of DASs, from dairies, industries, and ‘formal’ residential areas (Syal 2020d), this is an issue of environmental remediation and social (in)justice. I contend that 'slum' upgradation, wastewater reuse, and river remediation are interwoven, and could be addressed by implementing decentralized wastewater treatment systems (DEWATS) at DASs. In a companion paper, I frame DASs as Social-Ecological Systems (SES) and adapt the SES Framework (SESF)(Hinkel et al. 2015) to study socio-ecological outcomes of infrastructure/service provision in these SESs (Syal 2019). In this paper, I use water quality, land use, regulations, and multi-stakeholder interview data to populate the SESF, chart interactions between Resource System (drain), Resource Units (clean drain water), Governance System for infrastructure/service provision, and Actors (residents, regulatory agencies, NGOs), and link interactions to socio-ecological outcomes observed. Comparing standard infrastructure/service provision vs. a settlement with community-managed DEWATS, I found that the latter exhibited more interactions that remove waste, and decreased flooding and waste as outcomes.

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