Waste and inequality in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar

About this Session


Thu. 11.04. 16:45



Author – Swatiprava Rath.

Abstract :

Globalization, industrialization, and modernization have brought enormous changes in the urban space. Along with tremendous economic development and growth, environmental hazards are also expanding locally and globally. Among all the essential factors of climate change and environmental degradation, a high level of waste generation is a matter of concern. Though natural scientists have researched well on the issue of waste generation and provided technical solutions, there are specific crucial sociological dimensions of waste that need to be researched better. It is not inadequate to say that waste is an essential political actor because of its complex hybrid nature. The current study examines the political nature of waste in the urban space of Bhubaneswar. Waste has an entangling relationship with other actors in the city, creating a more unequal and unjust environment for humans and non-humans. The study takes the help of both the theoretical lens of political ecology and actor-network theory to map possible interconnections and networks in the city in the area of waste. A qualitative approach has been used in the study using methods such as participant, non-participant observation, ethnography, and face-to-face interviews. The study has found the existence of hierarchy and inequality in the context of waste generation, segregation, littering, and policy formulation. The lower class, castes, and women are deprived of their rights to a clean environment because of existing politics at the higher levels of the state and the privileged sections of the city. The consequence of such inequality is distressing not only humans but also non-humans. Their lives are also considered wasted as they are blamed for causing disorder and increasing waste generation in the city. The state and the privileged community actively try to bring order to society by disposing of them at their appropriate places (slums and ghettos). The above instances show the influential role of waste in Indian cities. However, other cities of the world may show similar or varied patterns of inequality, which need to be uncovered by conducting similar studies. The study proposes to figure out the patterns of inequality caused by waste to sketch out appropriate plans and policies to positively change the lives of humans and non-humans. Often ignored phenomena of waste carry the immense capacity to reveal power dynamics, inequality, and injustice and can also provide solutions to these modern issues.