It is common, in available scholarship of the Global South, to ascribe environmental and ecological problems—including air and water pollution, waste, and shrinking habitats—to a rather undifferentiated process of urbanization. In the Indian case, the perceived lack of political will or capacity of the state to effectively deal with these concerns is also typically highlighted. In turn, initiatives emanating from non-state actors have been either celebrated rather uncritically as ‘democracy-in-practice’ or have been the subject of trenchant criticism on account of their tendencies of ‘bourgeois environmentalism’.
While conflicts over public space and air pollution have been empirically examined recently, little critical research has been conducted on actually present ecologies of Indian cities, on how various agents experience and perceive them, and how situated nexuses of state, capital, and human and non-human agents co-produce variegated social-natures. Further, there is a clear separation and little conversation between research in the social and natural sciences: urban political ecology is devoid of ecology and social-political perspectives are largely absent from ecological work.
The aim of this project, then, is to examine dynamic ecologies in the context of urban growth and associated land-cover change. This is specifically attempted through the political ecological analysis of selected green 'patches' in the so-called Delhi Ridge, part of the once contiguous semi-arid Aravali Range, which has been fragmented into several smaller habitats due to the rapid urbanization. Yet, a fragile ecosystem—including antelopes, jackals, and several species of exotic and native flora--‘lives on’ in these patches, precariously linked to real estate developments, state planning, and differentially situated urban residents.