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Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban Living

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This research is an attempt to examine the everyday experiences of water insecurity among poor women in urban India. Their everyday living around a limited amount of water was captured visually to exhibit local idioms of struggling. There is empirical evidence that the narratives of becoming a global city often exacerbate the presence of social polarization and inequality in cities of the Global South. This includes unequal access to water, especially among subordinate groups. Drawing from fieldwork conducted in Hyderabad and Bangalore on water insecurity, the findings show that the impacts of water insecurity are highly gendered and contentious. It is in the landscape of gender division of labour that women have to negotiate their everyday lives around water. Deploying photography as the primary method, this article demonstrates the social dimension of water insecurity and the impact on women’s lives who bear the majority of domestic water issues. It is concluded that lack of efforts by the state and its agencies to improve understanding of the lived experience of water insecurity would aggravate the water issues in urban India and leave poorer urban women to be highly water insecure.
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Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
1
Water Insecurity in Urban India:
Looking through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban Living
Authors:
Diganta Das, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Haslindah Safini, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Abstract
This research is an attempt to examine the everyday experiences of water insecurity among
poor women in urban India. Their everyday living around a limited amount of water was
captured visually to exhibit local idioms of struggling. There is empirical evidence that the
narratives of becoming a global city often exacerbate the presence of social polarization and
inequality in cities of the global South. This includes unequal access to water, especially among
the subordinate groups. Drawing from fieldwork conducted in Hyderabad and Bangalore on
water insecurity, the findings showed that the impacts of water insecurity are highly gendered
and contentious. It is in the landscape of gender division of labor that women have to negotiate
their everyday lives around water. Deploying photography as the primary method, this paper
demonstrates social dimension of water insecurity and impact on women’s lives who bear the
majority of domestic water issues. It is concluded that lack of efforts by the state and its
agencies to improve understanding of the lived experience of water insecurity would aggravate
the water issues in urban India and leave poorer urban women to be highly water insecure.
KEYWORDS:
Water insecurity, gender, women, urbanization, Hyderabad, Bangalore, India
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
2
Introduction
Globally, over 844 million people lack access to safe water (WHO, UNICEF, 2011). It is
predicted that by 2025, the total world population is projected to reach 9.5 billion, but more
than 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with a high shortage of water (United Nations,
2007). As the world’s population continues to increase rapidly, most of the population growth
will occur in cities of global South, mainly in regions that have limited access to safe
drinking water and experiencing water insecurity (United Nations, 2010). In relation to food
insecurity, water insecurity is defined as insufficient and insecure access to adequate water
for a healthy lifestyle (FAO, 2004; Stevenson, Ambelu, Caruso, Tesfaye & Freeman, 2016).
To date, a number of research has shown that men and women may experience water
insecurity in very different ways (Crow & Sultana, 2002; Sultana, 2009; Wutich, 2009). For
instance, women tend to bore the majority of the domestic water issues such as the burden of
collecting water for the household. Many times they prioritize the water needs of other family
members above their own, putting themselves at a greater risk of being water insecure.
However, the majority of domestic decision making and economic aspects, including water
are controlled by men. It is in such landscape that water has gendered connotations (Crow &
Sultana, 2002). Drawing on primary research conducted in urban India and using visual
methods, this study examines the experiences of water insecurity among urban poor women
in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Their everyday life living around a limited amount of water and
the gender-water relations will be captured visually to exhibit local idioms of struggling.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
3
It has been observed that the quest of becoming a global city often emphasizes the neoliberal
policies that developing cities adopted in their urban development plans. As Nastar (2014)
defined, global cities are described as engines of economic growth hosting prominent local and
foreign corporations. In return, boosting the image of the city as they continue to serve as
important economic node in the world market.
India began to liberalize its economy in the early 1990s. During this period, neoliberalism
became a distinctive policy regime that drove the country’s aspiration to becoming a global
power and making cities the center of the economy. The new orientation of the state to
liberalize the economy has made cities of India such as Hyderabad and Bangalore scout for
foreign investments and leapfrog into a high-tech knowledge economy (Das, 2015). Several
local and transnational companies such as Infosys, Microsoft, and Google have established
their firms in strategic locations in Hyderabad and Bangalore. Moreover, the participation of
private sector and multilateral aid agencies such as IMF and World Bank in managing and
improving public resources and services are evident in its city’s urbanization policies (Das,
2015; Kamat, 2011; Nastar, 2014; Nef & Robles, 2000).
However, wide range of literature on urbanization showed that rapid, unprecedented
development in aspiring global cities is in parallel to spatial segregation and inequalities (see
Kumar & Aggarwal, 2008; Nastar, 2014; Das, 2015; Sen, 2017;). The narrative of ‘global-city
making’ has formed an essential backdrop for understanding the growing social inequality of
an urban society. This phenomenon is well observed in urban India as its neoliberalization
processes have impacted its water sector (among many other sectors) by leaving many of its
citizen having unequal access to safe and uninterrupted drinking water. Furthermore, the poor
population also suffers from water-related watse and sanitation challenges leading to
unhygienic and adverse living conditions (see Kumar et al., 2012). The water needs of the
urban poor are not met as they continue to be marginalized in the interest of private sectors and
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
4
elites of the society (Das et al. 2016). As the formal piped water supply coverage of cities such
as Hyderabad and Bangalore is quite limited, there is a huge demand for drinking water in the
newly built knowledge parks and surrounding neighborhoods (Prakash et al. 2015). The
increasing thirst of the cities in India are often being met by the illegal supply of groundwater
by private water-tankers from the peri-urban regions and selling them to affluent
neighborhoods, leaving the poor neighborhoods parched (see Prakash et al. 2015; Das et al.
2016). These practices and emerging waterscape of urban India are often argued to be
vulnerable to environmental and social issues.
The exclusion from accessing safe water has transformed public good to an economic
commodity. What is clear is that water accessibility depends on individuals’ ability to pay.
Thus in this perspective, material and socioeconomic class have a direct connection to water
security. Crow and Sultana (2002) reiterated that “rich and influential households may have
preferential conditions of access, and different sources of water, compared to those of poor
households” (p.711).
It ought to be borne in mind that the discourse is not homogenous for every individual.
What is neglected from the discussion is how different individuals interact with the inequality
of accessing water. To understand the interactions, Sultana (2009) and Wutich (2009) stated
that gender played a significant role in shaping water access and use. They reiterated that
gender relations are brought about by gender division of labor.
In many societies, men and women are traditionally positioned in public and private
sphere respectively. Generally, public spaces have been constructed as male-dominated
where men gain access to the economic sector, handle the finances of the family and enjoy a
degree of authority in the household. In a private sphere, in contrast, was far more limited
even in contemporary urban India setting. Women are instructed to remain at home as they
are primarily responsible for child raising, bearing, and domestic issues such as collecting
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
5
water, cleaning, and cooking. According to Crow and Sultana (2002) and Roy (2013), women
tend to work longer hours than men, subject to harassment, and discrimination. Mannan
(2018) further argues that women and men experience power differently, and position of
women in relation to men in both public and private sphere needs further investigation (p. 2).
Furthermore, recent urban development policies such as privatization of water supply have
caused water acquisition increasingly challenging for urban poor women, making them
vulnerable to household water insecurity (Wutich, 2009).
Hyderabad and Bangalore have a population of 7.7 million and 8.4 million respectively
(Census of India, 2011). Its geographical location has made Hyderabad and Bangalore a
bridge between southern and northern India, making them the fastest growing cities in India.
With large influx of inward migration in the cities, competition for water become a concern
in the urban environment as there is a higher demand to supply an already highly stressed
resource to a growing population.
Statistical data from World Resources Institute (2015) showed that many regions of India
are already water stressed. Moreover, Hyderabad and Bangalore are currently facing high
water risk in terms of its physical quantity and quality (Figure 1). This implies that both cities
are not only experiencing low water availability, but the water supplied to the residents are
also poor in quality. Delivering safe and adequate water to the masses has continued to be a
challenge in both cities.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
6
Figure 1: Current condition of the overall water Risk in Hyderabad and Bangalore in 2016
Source: AQUEDUCT Water Risk Atlas by World Resource Institute (2015)
Prior studies have indicated that with limited urban water availability and poor water
management by national and local authorities, the marginalized groups of the society are
often excluded from the urban water policies. This inclusion and exclusion in water policies
are observed in Hyderabad and Bangalore where elites enjoy an unlimited and uninterrupted
supply of water while the poor constantly struggle to access safe and adequate water. In what
follows, the next section discusses the methods used in this research and rationale behind
their selection; followed by a section on detailing the neighborhoods that were chosen as field
sites in both Hyderabad and Bangalore. A detailed results and discussion section then follow
it and finally the conclusion section provides a critical assessment of everyday waterscape
and gendered experience of water insecurity.
Methodology
This research is based on a funded research project that began in 2015 and, further draws from
two weeks of intensive fieldwork in Hyderabad and Bangalore during 2016. In examining how
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
7
gendered work differentially influences the women’s experiences of water insecurity, this study
targets participant who were either female heads of the households or housewives. They are
primarily responsible for domestic water-related tasks and maintaining the livelihood of the
household. However, their work is often undervalued, and low priority is given to them. United
by a single theme: water insecurity in urban India, the experiences of water insecurity were
documented through visual representation in the form of case study based narratives.
Visual methods
Visual research is widely used in anthropology, sociology, and ethnology, where still images
are used to depict social phenomena. Marion and Crowder (2013) highlighted that photography
is seen as practical for capturing cultural data and being scientific. While there are limited
research studies that adopted visual methods in geography, the numbers are encouraging over
the recent years (Hall, 2009; Johnsen, May & Cloke, 2008; Rose, 2008; Sidaway, 2002). Both
Sidaway (2002) and Rose (2008) stressed on the need for geographers to use photography as a
plausible method along with traditional techniques to capture the everydayness of people and
places. Rose (2008) further argued for visual methods and its strength in augmenting narratives
of everyday lives in our research.
In this research, visual method is used to capture the precarious landscape of everyday water
issues and the arena of gender-water relationship. Further, visual method helped in
documenting the everyday lives of women in relation to water issues. This method aided in
complementing the next step of investigation through in-depth interviewing of respondents.
During the fieldwork, approval from participants to take part in the research were gained before
any photographs were taken. They were not compelled to participate in the research and were
free to withdraw from it at any time without consequences. Permission to photograph them and
their personal spaces were asked beforehand, and participants were also informed on the usage
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
8
of the photographs. Access to and rapport with the female participants was aided by the
presence of local research assistants who translated the conversation in the local language.
Interviews
To gain deeper meanings and access to multiple perspectives about water insecurity and the
value of water, a series of questions were developed in order to get an in-depth understanding
and a more locally grounded experiences of water insecurity. The interview questions were
framed around participants’ current water situation and their experiences on how the provision
and acquisition of water in the city impacted their livelihood. Given this complex reality, the
starting point for the research was simply to ask whether participants felt if they could access
sufficient water for their household needs on a daily basis, and the challenges they face. With
prior permission, their responses were recorded on a digital voice recorder and were transcribed
after being translated into English by the research assistants. For this specific research, we have
prepared a list of semi-structured questions following Kevin Dunn’s (2005) importance of
‘content-centric(p. 110) environment during the in-depth conversations with more dialogues
between the researcher and the respondent. Questions to the respondents included such as
understanding the ways collect water for the family, their everyday challenges and in what
ways the families project resilience against the limited availability of water.
The questions were aimed to develop a deeper understanding of the household’s everyday
water issues and to provide a context for the kind of situations that the participant is in with
regards to water insecurity. A few more questions were devised to primarily identify the
challenges the participants faced in accessing and utilizing water, privatization of water and its
impact on the families, their adaptations and everyday resilience in overcoming the water
challenges etc. The challenges identified were further supported with various photographs
taken, hence providing a deeper understanding of the situation.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
9
The Field sites
In Hyderabad, two neighborhoods were identified as field sites for this research - - Madhapur
(Figure 2) and Nanakramguda neighborhood (Figure 3 & 4). In Bangalore, KR Market
neighborhood was selected as the field site (Figure 5 & 6). These three neighborhoods have a
dominant urban poor population, often residing in informal settlements and without adequate
piped water benefits.
Madhapur and Nanakramguda are suburbs of Hyderabad where HITEC city is located.
These areas have the highest concentration of information technology (IT) related offices
along the knowledge corridor of Cyebrabad and increasing real estate activities to cater to the
needs of the Indian middle class. Observations from the field, in line with several other
research studies (see Ramachandraiah and Prasad, 2008; Das, 2015;), showed that Cyberabad
had been distinctively associated as a place of exclusion and disconnection for the local poor.
With increasing importance of Cyberabad as a major IT destination, there has been a series of
flow of migrants from surrounding rural region into neighborhoods such as Madhapur and
Nanakramguda for better job opportunities. With increasing population of digeratis in
Cyberabad and other job-seekers in surrounding neighborhoods, provision of basic amenities
such as water became difficultleading to a splintering of provisions between the haves and
the have-nots. While the affluent Cyebrabad managed to get piped and uninterrupted drinking
water, neighborhoods such as Madhapur and Nanakramguda continued to face everyday
water challenges. Similarly, Bangalore rise as the silicon valley of India also led to emerging
splintered landscape of affluence and destitute. K R market neighborhood of Bangalore
symbolizes another poor neighborhood with informal housing set-up, cramped alleys and
challenges and negotiations of basic amenities such as water (see Figure 5). The next section
delves further into the fieldwork results and discussions.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
10
Figure 2: A typical self-built house of low-income residents in Madhapur, Hyderabad.
Figure 3: Houses of low-income residents in Nanakramguda, Hyderabad. This narrow stretch
of the corridor is shared with at least than five households.
Accepted draft version
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
11
Figure 4: Children are playing around the dusty and dirty area in Nankramguda village.
Cemented bricks are constructed around the village to set it apart from the condominium in
the background.
Figure 5: Crammed houses along a narrow lane in KR Market village, Bangalore
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
12
Figure 6: Residents living in KR Market village
Results & Discussion
While we have conducted a series of interviews during our two weeks of fieldwork, in order to
have a deeper understanding of the experiences of water insecurity in women’s everyday lives,
this study presents the narratives of three urban poor women in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The
locally grounded research reflects the realities and the burdens of water placed on those who
lack it and had to make necessary adaptations in their lives to survive with a limited amount of
water. Based on in-depth interviews, hours of conversations, observations and walking the
neighborhood with our respondents, we have developed a narrative approach towards
discussing the results of this fieldwork.
Narrative 1
Mrs. A has been living in Nanakramguda village for over 22 years. She lives with 3 of her
daughters and son in law. Her son-in-law works in a café, and he is the sole breadwinner of the
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
13
family. They survive with a monthly household income of less than 10,000 and pay 250 for
water every month from a communal water tap source where water is available only every
alternate day for 30 minutes or less.
The communal tap located 5 minutes from their house and water is available from the tap
every alternate day from 6.30 to 7 o’clock during the morning. A typical day scene of the family
involves Mrs. A, and her daughters are walking to collect water from the standpost/tap. They
will be there as early as 6 o’clock in the morning, and there will always be many other women
waiting in line to fetch water too. The communal water tap runs for only around 30 minutes.
Therefore, the amount of water available for collection per person is highly limited.
The pressure of water that flows from the tap is low. So each person only gets to collect a
small amount of water. We must also be fair to other people because they also queue for the
water. So we cannot spend too much time to collect water. We just take what we can.
Mrs. A (December 2016)
Mrs. A mentioned that due to her age, she suffers from severe back pain as she has been
carrying heavy water pails on her shoulder for more than four decades. Some days she could
not afford to fetch water because of the severity of the pain and only her daughters can do the
task. As a result, the family will have a lesser amount of water available to drink. An alarming
consequence was when one of Mrs. A’s daughters had a skin infection for a couple of months.
They believed it was due to the water as they felt that the municipal water supplied is unclean.
We usually do not collect the first few drops of water that come out from the tap. The water
is brown and looks dirty. So we will only collect after the dirty water flows off. However, we
always boil the water first before drinking.
- Mrs. A (December 2016)
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
14
In Nanakramguda neighborhood of Hyderabad, the majority of the residents have access to
necessities such as electricity and sanitation amenities. However, none of the urban poor’s
household is connected with individual water taps. They depend on the municipal water from
the communal tap for water supply. There are several public taps installed in the village, and
each tap is shared by five to eight household. During the interview, Mrs. A highlighted that the
quality of municipal water is questionable as the underground pipes are old and without
maintenance for years. Further, water supply is inconsistent especially during summer.
Moreover, the family member had suffered from skin irritation and diarrhea upon consuming
the water.
With insufficient water from municipal taps, Mrs. A, and her family suffered from severe
difficulty of getting quality drinking water and for household purposes. However, it made them
realize the importance of water and frugal means to save and use them. Further, the family
adopted an alternative method to access water. They now use a portable electrical motor to
extract groundwater to meet their water needs beyond drinking water. This act of resilience has
made Mrs. A, and her family to have considerably sufficient water for themselves to sustain
their livelihood, although it may be inconsistent. Every alternate day, Mrs. A connect the motor
to the ground pipe to extract the groundwater (Figure 7). She claimed that the quality of the
groundwater is poor and it is not suitable for drinking. Therefore, the groundwater is purely for
domestic use such as washing and cleaning. Furthermore, with depleting groundwater in
Hyderabad, Mrs. A has to figure out other ways to access water and secure enough for the
family.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
15
Figure 7: Mrs. A’s alternative method of accessing water using the electrical motor
Apart from the physical challenges that Mrs. A faces in accessing water, one of her
daughters expressed her desire of wanting to enter the workforce. She wants to help the family
by earning some money in hope to improve the living condition of the family. In Mrs. A’s
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
16
household, women are the principal water managers for domestic purposes such as washing,
cleaning, cooking and drinking. They use water from two sources - communal tap and
groundwater, depending on availability and purpose of use. Similar findings are shown in
research conducted by Crow and Sultana (2002) in Bangladesh where women made and
negotiated choices on a daily basis due to the inconsistent and limited water supply.
As mentioned in the preceding sections, women tend to be responsible for managing the
household’s water use. This is precisely observed in Mrs. A’s household where women are the
only one fetching water, performing domestic tasks and responsible for deciding how much
water to collect and use. Having access to sufficient water is significantly important for women
not only regarding water security but also allowing them to exercise their agency in the
household. This is consistent with a study carried out in Ethiopia by Stevenson et al. (2012)
where water-related activities lie clearly within the private’s realm of labor.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
17
Figure 8: Mrs. A and her family use water for various domestic purposes such as drinking,
washing clothes, cleaning, and sanitation. Water is an essential component in allowing
women to carry out their duties at home
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
18
Narrative 2
Figure 9: An informal housing of Mrs. B, an ubiquitous entity seen in Madhapur along with
nearby affluent pockets of middle-class gated housing clusters.
Mrs. B is a shy and petite woman who lives in an informal housing in Madhapur, Hyderabad
with her husband (see Figure 9). They have been living there for more than five years. Her
husband works as a cable operator/worker. With a monthly household income of less than
10,000, supporting a family’s needs in a globalizing city like Hyderabad becomes very
challenging. Settled in Madhapur’s informal housing, after they have been dispossessed from
their home previously in the process of accumulation of land for production of high-tech space.
This can be observed as part of a typical neoliberalizing process in contemporary India where
entrepreneurial governments are prioritizing investments over welfare. The family of Mrs. B
spends nearly 15 percent of their household income to pay the rent of the land that they are
currently occupying to the landlord.
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
19
Given that there is no communal tap near her house, neither piped water provision from the
municipality, Mrs. B negotiated an informal contract with her neighbour for water provision.
She paid 250 to her neighbour for water collection per month. A typical day scene involves a
10 minutes walk on a single trip barefooted to her neighbour’s house to collect water every
three days per week. Her neighbor lives in a better quality housing with gated walls, and an
installed water tap outside the house (see Figure 10).
Figure 10: Mrs. B collecting water from her neighbor tap
Accepted draft version
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
20
Figure 11: Mrs. B carrying the pail of water and make her way back home after collecting the
water
Figure 12: Mrs. B storing water in a 200L plastic drums
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Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
21
Mrs. B claimed that her neighbor has unlimited access to water. After filling up the small
metal container with water, she precariously balanced the stainless steel pot on her shoulder
and could carry up to 15 liters of water per trip (see Figure 11). Mrs. B will then store the water
in a plastic drum that could hold up to 200 liters of water (Figure 12). She owns two plastic
drums that could store 200 and 100 liters of water respectively. These plastic drums are being
used for storage of water worth two days of household use. She covers the plastic drums with
a rubber lid tightly to prevent contamination. During the interview, Mrs. B stated that the water
collected could probably be contaminated with bacteria as her family does experience stomach
upsets once in a while.
Sometimes my stomach feels uncomfortable when drinking the water. However, we do not
have enough money to buy water packaged water or from a water tanker. We do not have a
choice.
-Mrs. B (interview taken during Ducember 2016)
Despite the self-reported poor quality of water, Mrs. B does not boil the water before
drinking. She would need to use charcoal for her family cooking which does not come cheap
for them and using the precious charcoal for boiling the water is, therefore, avoided. Without
much choice, she uses the same water for drinking, and other general uses such as cooking and
washing. Further, it was informed that the family would often cut back on water use to avoid
running out of the water. She said -
When water is running out, I will not do any laundry and washing. Bathing is also reduced. Then I
must also judiciously ration water for cooking and drinking because we do not have much water left
and managed accordingly.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
22
(Interview taken during December 2016)
As a result of water shortage, Mrs. B would then have piles of unwashed clothes and dishes
over a couple of days. During the summer, when Hyderabad is parched, these effects are more
severe. This occurrence is similar with findings from Wutich (2009) where she argued that in
Bolivia, on average people used nine liters of water for sanitation purposes, seven liters for
cooking, and 26 liters for household tasks each day. However, to economize, people might
reduce their daily water use to three liters for sanitation purposes or five liters for household
tasks. Depending on seasons, purchasing abilities and availability, families and especially
women demonstrate a significant level of resilience against lack of water. Women, not only
reduce their consumption, they ration everyday water uses accordingly for the family to
manage within limited budget.
However, resilience against water and everyday management have led to back pain and feet
problems due to the pressure of carrying heavy pails of water from the water source to her
house. Further, during the summer when Hyderabad’s daily maximum temperature soars up to
45 degree Celsius, the heat increases her exhaustion and dehydration – without any possibility
of rehydrating herself as water is parched and may need to ration for their family’s everyday
use. As a result, she would take a much longer time to fetch water and lesser time available
for her to complete other household duties. Compared to men, women face very many
challenges and health impacts in collecting, storing and rationalizing the use of water.
I have to do all the work by myself, and, during summer we need more water because it is scorching
weather. I get exhausted and thirsty fetching water all the time. However, if I do not fetch water, then
we do not have water to drink.
- Mrs. B (Interview taken during December, 2016)
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
23
Mrs. B highlighted that her husband does not take part in domestic water collection as he
spends time solely on earning income for the family. At his present wages, they could hardly
make ends meet. Therefore, Mrs. B would not want to burden her husband with the household
chores. During the fieldwork, it was observed that Mrs. B is not the only one who lives in such
informal housing in Madhapur neighborhood with the precarity of water. There are other
households who share similar stories. In a globalizing city increasingly painted with glitzy
skyscrapers and gated condominiums with their unlimited water provisions, the marginalized
groups living in the peripheries of the knowledge park, are facing everyday challenges of water
and often vulnerable for possible eviction in future. Mrs. B also highlighted her worry about
water scarcity and lack of water provisions in a precarious pocket of the entrepreneurial city.
Nevertheless, Mrs. B choose to remain hopeful that there will be assistance provided to her
family in the future.
In Mrs. B’s situation, she depends on good relations with wealthier household for
continuity in access to reliable water. Although she does not have to wait in line to get water,
she is the only women at home to secure the family’s water needs. With her age and poor
health, she has to juggle her responsibilities of water collection, cleaning, washing, with other
responsibilities at home all by herself. The inability of Mrs. B to perform such tasks would
further aggravate and challenge the household’s water insecurity.
Narrative 3
Mrs. C lives in KR Market neighborhood in Bangalore. She has been living in this
neighborhood for more than 40 years with four other family members. Her monthly household
income is less than 10,000. Mrs. C’s primary source of water is the communal water tap
supplied by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) (Figure 13). It is
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
24
shared with more than ten other households of the neighborhood. She pays nearly 150 every
month for the water supply.
Figure 13: Mrs. C collecting water from the communal tap to wash her clothes
Figure 14: With lack of space in her house, the common alley becomes her space for washing
clothes – an everyday scene visible in poor neighborhoods in Indian cities.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
25
Mrs. C does not have another alternative water source apart from the communal water tap,
and she uses the municipality supplied water for both drinking and general purposes. She
claimed to boil the water to make safer for drinking. During the interview, Mrs. C explained
that she had collected enough water for drinking earlier in the day and stored it in a big water
drum that can store up to 200 liters. Water flows through the tap for nearly three hours, and she
was able to collect more water to do her laundry for the day. She did her laundry outside of her
house where the communal tap is located three doors away from her house and with limited
washing space inside the house, this makes house chore more convenient for her.
Mrs. C lived in K R Market since she was young. Hence, she has observed tremendous
changes in the waterscape of the neighborhood that had taken place over the years. With
increasing urbanization of Bangalore, the neighborhood also transitioned towards a place for
migrants to arrive, rent and began their lives and livelihood in India’s Silicon Valley. The
neighborhood witnessed compact housing with concrete structures and provision of public
services such as water and electricity by the municipality. However, during the interview, Mrs.
C commented that there are several taps installed were dry leading to increasing pressure on
families to share water and manage within a limited number of communal taps that are in
working condition. Further, water supply to those taps comes with low pressure and often
inconsistent. With increasing number of residents in the neighborhood, water shortage has been
a common feature in the neighborhood. There were days that Mrs. C lived without being able
to wash her clothes and dishes due to an insufficient amount of water. The first priority for her
is always to source and save drinking water.
If I do not have enough water, then I do not do any washing. I will wait for the day water is
supplied. When the water comes, then I can do my laundry again.
- Mrs. C (interview taken during December 2016)
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
26
In Mrs. C’s situation, we have observed that while the waterscape of Bangalore
neighborhood is relatively better than the two Hyderabad neighborhoods, water is increasingly
becoming a marginalized commodity with lesser availability and more people to share with.
Mrs. C need to negotiate access to water in a landscape of increasing marginalization. This is
observed through her everyday practices and personal sharing, where she demonstrated water-
related resilience and adaptations.
Gender, water, and (lack of) infrastructure
With the above mentioned three case-studies on women’s everyday experience around water
insecurity, it has been observed that within the households, water insecurity is highly
influenced by gender-water relations. Women of the household were seen to be responsible for
sourcing and ensuring adequate water for the family. In extreme heat, rainy days and during
cold mornings, these women walk barefoot - queue up responsibly for water collection. They
store water for drinking, cleaning utensils, and wash the family’s clothes within the limited
water. There are clear demarcations about the gendered division of labor. Women exercise their
agency in the private/domestic sphere by undertaking domestic work including managing the
health of the household, caring and raising the children. Men seemed to not participate in the
domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning as that is deemed a feminized task for the women
of the household. While the men of the house go out to work and earn money, collecting and
securing water and related work is seen as an activity for the other gender. Women need to
chase for water’ – collect and store them through assemblages of various sources in the hands
of lack of regular water supply by the authorities (see Peloso & Morinville, 2014 p. 121-122).
From interview excerpts, it was observed that power relations within the household generally
mean that despite the men using less amount of water (as he spends more time outside the
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
27
house), the male counterpart has the greatest say in decision making in the household including
activities such as financing family’s water. A research study conducted by Scott (2015) in
Jordan showed a similar phenomenon of household water insecurity is highly gendered. Thara
(2017) reaffirmed that inability of women to control the household budget puts them at a greater
risk of being water insecure.
As water is only intermittently distributed at most three times per week, women would
perform water intensive household tasks on these ‘water days’- using locally specific coping
strategies around water (un)availability. It is not only a day where water is supplied to them
but a day of hard work where women would do all washing and cleaning and accordingly
arranging other household work, schedule and plan their time around to get most of the task
done before the supply goes off. During water days, women will be seen queuing for water and
collect as much water as possible to fill their tanks.
As observed in Mrs. A’s household, her daughters can assist her with the domestic tasks.
Participation of more female family members helps to reduce the burden and cope with the
water issues effectively. However, Mrs. B, being the only female member in the family is
forced to carry out all the water activities by herself leaving her family in a territory of water
insecurity if and when she falls sick and unable to collect water.
Conclusion
Urban India is increasingly trying to emulate global standards and aspiring to become global
cities. While the aspiration of becoming global and entrepreneurial has been partly successful
in case of cities such as Hyderabad and Bangalore, it has also led to infrastructural constraints
and limited access to water, especially for more impoverished pockets without ‘the formal
water supply system(see Prkash et al., 2015 p. 56). This paper reflected the infrastructural
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
28
constraints and the gendered relationship to access and use of water through the narratives of
three women in different neighborhoods of Hyderabad and Bangalore. Their everyday
experiences of water insecurity are often associated to the limited water supply by formal
means in the neighborhoods, relying on assemblages of other means and methods of collecting
water and managing/storing water for the family. In the absence of reliable and uninterrupted
water infrastructure, accessing safe and reliable water has increased the burden on women.
Rather than men, it was the women that need to spend negotiating their everyday lives to fetch
water, store them and schedule other household work accordingly. Moreover, the results of this
study reaffirm past findings on water insecurity among urban poor and that women are more
likely to be water insecure than men.
From the data collected, it is observed that household without water tap reduces the
efficiency of livelihood. Many urban poor women are forced to collect water barefooted and
carry heavy pots of water on their shoulders. They make multiple trips per day to meet the
household water needs. Water accessibility problems are also self-solved where some
household resort in extracting groundwater by using bore-wells for domestic use. However,
those who could not afford have lesser opportunities to access required water pushing them
further into the insecure realm. Water has increasingly become a commodity splintered
between haves and have-nots.
Additionally, the gender division of labor is clearly present in contemporary urban India.
Domestic water issues lie within the women’s private sphere, resulting them to be most
vulnerable as they depend entirely on the breadwinner (men) to pay for the water supply. It is
rare for men to participate in water-related tasks other than paying for its economic value as
evident from the case studies that we have discussed earlier. The outcome of such
circumstances has placed women to be more water insecure than men. Their access to water is
compromised when different external and internal actors undervalued their water needs or
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
29
denied their rights to adequate water. The provision of water supply needs to be part of overall
urban planning to ensure that every individual is included. As such, locally grounded more
comprehensive research is essential in understanding the urban water issues before
implementing water policies and strategies to the citizens.
Hyderabad and Bangalore have been claimed to be the most liveable cities in India.
However, the water issues in these cities are not conforming to the state’s vision of improving
the livelihood of the residents in these globalizing cities. Hence, the state will need to take an
integrated approach to addressing the supply and demand of water by first recognizing the
social and gendered dimensions and inequality to resolve the persistent water issues in the
cities. Moreover, Sultana (2009) reaffirmed that the inclusion of marginalized groups in water
project decision-making improves efficiency and equity in water resource management.
As highlighted earlier, the urban population of Hyderabad and Bangalore will increase
exorbitantly over the coming years. Delaying interventions to resolve or mitigate water
insecurities will merely aggravate the situation and possibly will result in severe water
challenges among water users in the future. Therefore, the state and its allies play a crucial role
in mitigating water insecurity by ensuring that sufficient and clean water reaches to every urban
dweller.
Accepted draft version
Please cite as:
Das, D., & Safini, H. Water Insecurity in Urban India: Looking Through a Gendered Lens on Everyday Urban
Living. Environment and Urbanization ASIA, 9(2), 0975425318783550. doi:10.1177/0975425318783550
30
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The role of women's preferences in creating urban spaces appears to have received less attention in research on women's studies and urban public spaces. Therefore, the main purpose of this research is to investigate the significant relationship between the number of times women are present in urban spaces and their individual characteristics as well as the physical characteristics of the built environment. The methods of this research are descriptive-analytical and survey. The population was all women from Shiraz, Iran, within the age group of 15–55 years who use urban public spaces for performing optional or social activities. The results showed that in the individual dimension, there is a significant correlation between the number of times women are present in urban spaces and their marital status and age. There is also a relationship between the physical characteristics of the built environment and women's presence in urban public spaces. Among the components, women's presence in urban public spaces was most significantly related to land use and activity. Also, women's presence in urban spaces has the highest correlation with the importance of access to public parking and the choice of sitting or walking in the shade or in the sun.
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The pervasive entrenchment of Western traditions in Africa continues to fuel the contradiction existing between customary and statutory water institutions on the continent. The paper addresses factors promoting the discord between customary and statutory institutions in water access in the Shakawe, Tubu and Shorobe in the Okavango Delta. Adopting an expert and homogeneous purposive sampling procedure, a total of 455 household heads, 44 community elders and 17 government officials were sampled in three rural villages in the Okavango Delta. Data were collected using key informant interviews, focused group discussions (FGDs) as well as household interview schedules. While quantitative data were analysed using descriptive (frequency, percentages) and inferential statistics (Kruskal-Wallis test, Mann-Whitney U test), content analysis was used to analyse the qualitative data. Findings revealed that there was a conflict between customary and statutory water management institutions in relation to how people in the study area accessed water.
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Background: Over 650 million people worldwide lack access to safe water supplies, and even among those who have gained access to 'improved' sources, water may be seasonally unreliable, far from homes, expensive, and provide insufficient quantity. Measurement of water access at the level of communities and households remains crude, and better measures of household water insecurity are urgently needed to inform needs assessments and monitoring and evaluation. We set out to assess the validity of a quantitative scale of household water insecurity, and to investigate (1) whether improvements to community water supply reduce water insecurity, (2) whether water interventions affect women's psychological distress, and (3) the impacts of water insecurity on psychological distress, independent of socio-economic status, food security, and harvest quality. Methods and findings: Measures were taken before and one to six months after a community water supply improvement in three villages in rural northern Ethiopia. Villages similar in size and access to water sources and other amenities did not receive interventions, and served as controls. Household water insecurity was assessed using a 21-item scale based on prior qualitative work in Ethiopia. Women's psychological distress was assessed using the WHO Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20). Respondents were either female heads of household or wives of the heads of household (n = 247 at baseline, n = 223 at endline); 123 households provided data at both rounds. The intervention was associated with a decline of approximately 2 points on the water insecurity scale between baseline and endline compared to the control (beta -1.99; 95% CI's -3.15, -0.84). We did not find evidence of impact of the intervention on women's psychological distress. Water insecurity was, however, predictive of psychological distress (p <0.01), independent of household food security and the quality of the previous year's harvest. Conclusion: These results contribute to the construct validity of our water insecurity scale, and establish our approach to measuring water insecurity as a plausible means of evaluating water interventions. Improvements to community water supplies were effective in reducing household water insecurity, but not psychological distress, in this population. Water insecurity was an important predictor of psychological distress. This study contributes to an emerging literature on quantitative assessment of household water insecurity, and draws attention to the potential impact of improved access to water on women's mental well-being.
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Despite recent reports suggesting that access to improved sources of drinking water is rising in Ghana, water access remains a daily concern for many of those living in the capital region. Throughout the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), the urban poor manage uncertainty and establish themselves in the city by leveraging a patchwork system of basic services that draws importantly from informal systems and supplies. This paper takes a case study approach, using evidence gathered from two-months of fieldwork in a peri-urban informal settlement on the fringe of Accra, to explore everyday practices involved in procuring water for daily needs that routinely lead residents outside of the official water supply system. Findings from this case study demonstrate that respondents make use of informal water services to supplement or 'patch up' gaps left by the sporadic water flow of the official service provider, currently Ghana Water Company Ltd. (GWCL). Basic water access is thus constructed through an assemblage of coping strategies and infrastructures. This analysis contributes to understandings of heterogeneity in water access by attending to the everyday practices by which informality is operationalised to meet the needs of the urban poor, in ways that may have previously been overshadowed. This research suggests, for example, that although water priced outside of the official service provider is generally higher per unit, greater security may be obtained from smaller repetitive transactions as well as having the flexibility to pursue multiple sources of water on a day-to-day basis.
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This article documents the conflict between peri-urban and urban water users in Mallampet, a peri-urban village adjacent to Hyderabad City. In Mallampet and adjoining villages, 15–20 tanker companies are operating, most of which are owned by the local residents of the area. The number of tanker companies fluctuates depending on the business conditions. Most of them operate without legal permission from authorities. Pumping groundwater and selling it to urban consumers requires minimal hard work and yields maximum returns. Some villagers have been able to seize this opportunity, more so because agriculture is no longer profitable. Based on the data collected from individual pumps and selected tanker companies operating in the village, estimates were made for the amount of water extracted and the revenue earned by a few wealthy and powerful people in the village who are ignorant of the dire consequences of rapid aquifer discharge. The conflict is latent at the moment because the water sellers and buyers are more powerful socially and economically, while the people who are at the receiving end do not have a voice. They are unable to prevent the extraction and sale of groundwater in order to help reduce their insecurity. Even though there are strong laws like the 2002 Andhra Pradesh Water, Land and Trees Act (APWALTA) which prevents the mining of aquifers, the strong nexus between local authorities, politicians and water sellers helps bypass the law.
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Deep-rooted gender inequalities exist in organizations responsible for provisioning sanitation facilities in Bangladesh with regard to organizational culture, financial status and power axis within and beyond the organizations. There are huge gaps between these organizations as these have differential gender-sensitive policies or even lack proper understanding of gender. Without having a gender-sensitive leadership within organizations, sanitation issues continue to have a male-dominated bias. Given the patriarchal organizational culture and mindset in Bangladesh, serious rethinking is needed to bring about a gender-sensitive sanitation policy. This article aims to investigate gender issues in sanitation through qualitative analysis of select sanitation and water-implementing organizations in Dhaka and explore how they understand, interpret and practice ‘gender’.
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The project of privatisation of water has been floated in Bangalore since 1999, and though it has been kept in abeyance by social activists and non-government organisations working with the urban poor, water is being commoditised. In this article, I examine the impact of this process on the struggles of poor women to access water for themselves and their dependants, in a slum rehabilitation area in Bangalore. Women are resisting the monetisation of water, which they consider to be a human right. While the advantages of the technologies that accompany this process are emphasised by the authorities – piped water is seen as saving time and increasing mobility, as well as delivering a higher-quality resource – women retort that the requirement to pay for water outweighs any benefits, and other material realities of life still bind them to their homes.
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Urban spaces impacted by liberalization have not provided enough opportunities to work outside home for women. This paper compares the employment patterns of men and women in three cities both in urban cores, peri-urban areas and the residual parts of the respective states in which or adjacent to which three major metropolitan cities are located in. The paper concludes that though the urban locales of the peri-urban areas have been doing better in many respects vis-a-vis the residual states, these benefits are not distributed equally. Women are worse off in terms of work opportunities and unemployment rates in the peri-urban areas, and such conditions can be explained by the social and demographic changes that have taken place in the peri-urban areas around the large metropolitan cities. With a smaller household size and a lower working age-group sex ratio compared to the interior districts, the possible care burden on the adult women of the households could be a factor explaining their low work participation in these areas.
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Aims: Through the lens of dynamic change in the city’s waterscape, this paper examines Hyderabad’s global aspiration and the ways it impacts water provisions and accessibility issues for the poor locals. Study Design: This paper is based on descriptive research design accompanied by surveys and qualitative interviews. Place and Duration of Study: Hyderabad (India). While the surveys and majority of qualitative interviews were done during December 2013, a few more follow-up fieldwork related observations and discussions were conducted during September 2015. Methodology: This paper is based on qualitative human geography methods – largely consisting of fieldwork observations, application of visual methods, surveys and personal interviews in Hyderabad. Results: Hyderabad in India provides an interesting account of this trend of neoliberal developments where poor local farmers are pushed out from their land to make way for a world class knowledge corridor, popularly known as Cyberabad. The processes of worlding have also impacted the larger environment and sustainability issues of the city – from encroaching lakes for real-estate developments to privatizing the water provisions leading to exacerbating accessibility challenges. Conclusions: This paper concludes that while the state government was able to map Hyderabad into the global map as a high-tech and smart destination, access to basic water supply is increasingly getting skewed towards benefiting the elites and alienating the poor. There is an urgent need for policy makers to address the challenges of water provision and (in) accessibility.
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Urbanisation and migration have led to the problem of urban slums wherein poverty and unemployment co-exist, besides many other problems including availability of water and sanitation. On the basis of a primary survey of 486 households, the study aims to find out the extent of poverty and the employment status of the slum population of Gwalior city in Madhya Pradesh. The study finds that most of the workers in Gwalior are engaged in casual or daily wage employment. The analysis shows that the poverty in Gwalior slums is around 68 per cent based on 1999-2000 poverty line estimates and around 80 per cent based on 2004-05 estimates.
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Over the past few decades, cities and city regions have become the core of the global economy. Regional governments are increasingly drafting city development policies and implementing them through various visioning documents with the aim of making cities more global, networked and competitive. Welfarist governments especially in the global South are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial, and in the process poor citizens are getting pushed to the margins, evicted from their land and relocated to city fringes. Hyderabad in India provides an interesting illustration of neoliberal development trends in which poor local farmers are forced off their land to make way for a ‘world-class’ knowledge enclave, popularly known as Cyberabad. This paper examines the policies and processes by which the regional government has sought to brand Hyderabad as a world-class information technology destination and to restructure and reimagine it as a key node in a network of ‘globally connected cities’ of the world. It also considers the making of Cyberabad in terms of splintering urbanism, which is often understood as a defining feature of contemporary neoliberal urban processes.
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The ambition to be recognized as a ‘World City’ or ‘Global City’ is rapidly increasing not the least among cities in the global south such as Hyderabad in India and Johannesburg in South Africa. While such a status seems promising for attracting foreign capital and for expanding the economic potential of urban areas, it may have adverse impacts on the hinterland and contribute to growing urban inequality. Therefore, in this paper, the government initiatives inspired by world-city visions in Johannesburg and Hyderabad are analyzed in order to explore the social and environmental implications of the rhetoric around becoming a world city. By demonstrating the disparity in water access, the paper argues that the promises of city development plans in terms of social integration and ‘world-class service’ provision for all citizens, have not been fulfilled. Instead, the narrative of world-class cities in Hyderabad and Johannesburg open new avenues for the accumulation of wealth among the financial and political elite. Hence, the quest to become world cities will likely exacerbate the inequality gap within urban areas in the two cities.