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Water, Land, and Housing: Narratives around Water Access, Tenement Tenure, and Built Form in Mumbai, India

Authors: Paroma Wagle*, University of California Irvine
Topics: Urban Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology, Political Geography
Keywords: Water contestations, Narratives, Water policy, Inequalities
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Large and mega cities across the Global South have been witnessing contestations and conflicts over water access, especially affecting the poor and vulnerable populations. Mumbai, in India, is no exception. However, the city stands out as it gets more than adequate water and has huge financial assets. Hence, this paper is based on the research attempting to trace and understand the clashing interests and discordant values that underlie the persistence of water access contestation in Mumbai. It takes the methodological approach of eliciting, rearticulating, and analyzing narratives of key actors, drawn from semi-structured interviews of 65 representatives of these actors. This paper presents two of the major narratives that came out, namely, the narrative linking denial of water-access to tenure of tenement and another linking it to the built form—type and location of housing. The tenure of tenement is a legal, political, and administrative construct that links water access to the differing ownership of land under the tenements or to some administrative fiats. Access is also denied or the nature and extent of access significantly varies across different built-forms like slums, Slum Rehabilitation Authority redevelopments, old complexes with shared toilets like chawls, apartment complexes, or high-rising towers. The paper brings out the interplay of values and interests of actors—such as municipal officials, politicians, citizens groups, organizations of poor, academics, planners, and media observers—that lies under these two dominant narratives around denial of water-access in Mumbai.

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