Year

2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Geography and Sustainable Communities

Abstract

The study aims to explore the potential for systematic development of urban green infrastructure (UGI) as a form of environmental hazard adaptation in Bangladesh’s urban slums. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and one of the world’s largest mega-cities, will likely suffer many adverse impacts from natural calamities due to its geographical position and extant social inequalities. One of the key concerns relating to urban hazards in the city is the growing loss of green space because of rapid population growth, increased use of green areas for commercial activities, lack of proper planning, and the expansion of informal and squatter settlements (slums). While urban slum dwellers will be one of the groups most susceptible to natural hazards, there is a dearth of research critically discussing their potential adaptation strategies and their own approaches to UGI. In this context, this Ph.D. thesis proposes that a combination of policy-oriented (top-down) and indigenous and grassroots (bottom-up) approaches to UGI is a solution that would make Bangladesh’s urban slums more resilient to natural disasters. The study takes Korail, the biggest slum in Dhaka, as a case study and field site. Qualitative research methods, and on-site informal and in-depth interviews, are utilised to gather information from both slum dwellers themselves and key stakeholders at the policymaking level. In this way the study empirically explores the challenges and opportunities of UGI as an urban hazard adaptation strategy by extending the conceptual framework in human geography of mobility justice, social practice theory (SPT), and grassroots innovation to this topic. The study reveals three major findings: First, urban politics are active in Korail, yet impotent in the case of urban greening. Second, local agencies’ deployment of niche initiatives on UGI yields insignificant dividends in slums. Third, the latent competence of slum households for UGI serves as a source of community resilience in precarious urban settings through user participation.

The study argues for a nuanced understanding of urban politics that needs to assess the practices of urban greening in slum households. Along with this, intermediaries need to harness grassroots innovations and address various environmental issues while networking with the government and other stakeholders. The study offers that Korail and other dense conurbations do offer a ‘viable practice space’ for UGI and thus dwellers’ practices should not be overlooked or downplayed by authorities. Finally, the thesis suggests that continuity across various scales can be reconnected for enhancing the resilience of slum dwellers. The proposed framework and anticipated results will contribute to urban governance and planning in addressing sustainable development goals and the security of slum dwellers in the global South generally, and Bangladesh in particular.

This thesis is unavailable until Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.