Urban gardening a secret to sustainable waste management in Mumbai, India?

Authors: Pradnya Garud*, University of Arizona
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Sustainability Science
Keywords: urban sustainability, urban gardening, waste management, labor, caste
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban gardening is being promoted in India as a win-win solution for urban sustainability, climate resilience, and as an alternative to chemical-intensive farming. My paper seeks to evaluate the effects of these strategies in urban India by attending to the role of gender, class, and caste inequalities. Caste is material control exercised by ruling classes through hierarchical forms of social stratification based on birth, division of labor, spatial segregation, and notions of purity and pollution which are perpetuated through intra-caste marriages. Caste oppression is enmeshed with gender subjugation and overlaps with class status in India (Ambedkar, 1936; Berreman, 1967, 1972; Deshpande, 2002; Kumar, 2011, Vithayathil & Singh, 2012; Cháirez-Garza 2014). These understudied dimensions of urban gardening play a critical role in urban environmental interventions where sustainability benefits do not always materialize for marginalized groups. Rather, as numerous urban political ecological studies of Indian cities have shown (Baviskar, 2011; Mawdsley, 2004; Sastry, 2015; Anantharaman, 2017) environmentalism has often exacerbated inequalities and is dominated by upper caste and class people. Accordingly, I contend that rather than assuming urban agriculture as a universal good we must understand farming practices in relation to broader urban political, economic, social, and ecological dynamics. Through an ethnographic study of middle-class gardeners in Mumbai, my research will examine the complex interplay of caste, class, and gender in shaping practices and discourses around urban gardening.

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