Mainstreaming Climate Justice in the City: A case study of Interstate Migrant Waste Pickers in Bangalore, India
The neo-liberal reforms in India have been socially divisive leading to land dispossession, loss of livelihoods and decline of agricultural incomes in the villages exacerbating poverty and inequalities. This has created a mass exodus of rural workers (agricultural and non-agricultural) into the cities. In this seminar Kavya Michael and Tanvi Deshpande discuss their paper that examines the migration of rural working classes from West Bengal to the urban informal settlements in Bangalore city. This migration has been an outcome of climatic factors like erratic rainfall patterns, floods and cyclonic storms among others as well as non-climatic factors associated with agrarian distress and oppressive socio-economic divisions on the lines of class, caste and income. Lack of skills restrict their entry into the formal labour market in the city and they end up as waste workers residing in hazardous locations. Our findings indicate that while the root causes of their vulnerability can be traced back to the socio-economic and ecological conditions in their homeland, exclusionary urbanisation patterns in Bangalore renders them access to a livelihood that has severe implications on their health and identities. In addition they reside in extremely hazardous zones amidst heaps of garbage with an erratic rainfall likely to have severe implications on their health and incomes. However they also provide an essential eco-system service to the city from a mitigation perspective by handling and processing a large amount of waste generated by the city. Using these interstate migrants as an example our study illustrates the importance of recognising the need for bringing a climate justice lens to the city by recognising the existing forms of marginalisation’s and how climate change can exacerbate it.
Kavya Michael is a post-doctoral researcher in Indian Institute of Human Settlements Bangalore, India. She holds a PhD from School of Economics, University of Hyderabad, India. Her doctoral thesis has framed climate change as a classic political economy problem centered on the question ‘to whom’ or in other words “who gains and loses as climate change unfolds”. The thesis has focused on the linkages between inequalities and the environmental change in an Indian context with a special focus on climate change. She has examined access to carbon space and climate change resilience among various socio-economic classes in post reform India. As a part of her doctoral work she has also conducted a primary field study in Wayanad district of Kerala among the tribal communities. Her research interests broadly lie in political ecology, ecological economics, environmental justice as well as climate change vulnerability and resilience analysis. In addition, she is passionate about bringing research to practice and champions the rights of a clean and safe environment for all. She is a member of “Initiative for Inequality” a global network of community members and advocates who are working on equity related issues.
Tanvi Deshpande is currently working as a researcher at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore, India. Her work entails the full spectrum of research on climate change issues in the urban and peri-urban areas of semi-arid regions of India. She is interested in understanding urban vulnerability and the effectiveness of urban adaptation strategies. She graduated with an MSc in Climate Change from the University College London (UCL) in 2013. Before that, she read for a BSc. in Environmental Science (2012) and also a BSc. in Chemistry (2011) from Fergusson College, University of Pune. She is deeply passionate about our climate and am extremely concerned about how rapidly and drastically it is changing. Tanvi has devoted her educational and vocational path towards this end, and will continue to do so.