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23rd European Conference on South Asian Studies

23 - 26 July 2014, Zürich, Switzerland

In July 2014, I have benefited from a GSGS travel grant to participate in the 23rd European Conference on South Asian Studies in Zürich, Switzerland. Colleagues from Lausanne convened a panel on ‘Environmental politics in urban South Asia’ focusing on the governance efforts by both state and non-state actors in order to overcome the multiple socio-environmental problems faced by urban agglomerations in South Asia.

 

Figure1:Yamuna, largest tributary river of the Ganges, in Delhi

As intended by the convenors Dr Anna Zimmer and Natasha Cornea, the panel offered a platform for a detailed and in-depth discussion on the socially, spatially and economically differentiated urban environmental politics. Contributing to the panel I presented my paper (full paper required) ‘The role of local environmental NGOs and environmental think tanks in urban environmental governance in India: the case of the Yamuna in Delhi’.

My presentation was linked to a discourse in recent scholarship on Indian environmentalism that in contrast to the well-described environmentalism of the poor has focused especially on the conflicting outcomes of middle-class conservation agendas and beautification movements – commonly termed bourgeois environmentalism in India’s cities. Although critically engaging with middle-class activism in general, my paper tries to challenges this seemingly clear dichotomy by analyzing the different roles of local environmental NGOs and larger environmental think tanks. Based on my PhD-research, I highlighted that especially small and locally-based environmental NGOs - although middle-class dominated - do not exclusively strive for middle class interests, but rather endeavor ecological sustainability and social justice. Through their networks they negotiate with the multi-layered state - always balancing between protest, petitioning, and policy counselling. The panel discussion was extensive and opened up new insights for my work. The panel-conveners are working on a special issue to be published in an internationally well-known, peer-reviewed journal. I hope to contribute with my (reworked) paper to the special issue.    

 

Alexander Follmann

PhD student

PhD project: “Governing Urban Riverscapes – The politics of land-use change along the river Yamuna in Delhi, India”

Institute of Geography