This book is a contemporary history of environmental issues in Delhi. It traces the journey from the engagement with sanitary matters in the nineteenth century to issues of air and water pollution, waste and toxicity in contemporary Delhi. Matters of environmental improvement, it suggests, are synchronous in Indian cities rather than being separated in time and space, making them distinct from cities of the global North. The book engages with the shifts on multiple registers by analysing the social, biophysical and health-related spaces in the city. It references the world of the social to explore the attitudes to safety and security, relations of race and class, habitations of humans and those of animals, the place of the rural within the urban and the continuum on which legal and illegal practices locate themselves. Contextualizing the spatial, it maps the specific sites at which environmental issues are most prominently posed, such as rivers and slaughterhouses, streets and factories, slums, and public spaces.
Investigating the dynamics of biophysical resources: air and water, their contamination and possible states of purity through social surveys and scientific standards, Sharan sifts through the emotional registers of pain and prejudice, and mines the vocabulary of planning, governance, and the measures of risk. Finally, the book situates itself in contested domains, for efforts at environmental improvement in the city of Delhi, as elsewhere, have been aimed not only at securing cleaner biophysical resources and better health, but have also always been about possibilities of creating alternate ways of dwelling in the city. Traversing the colonial and postcolonial in the city, the book highlights the multiplicity of urban forms evident in the distinction between the old city and the new capital and between the inhabitants and the ruling race. In the postcolonial city, planned and informal spaces, legal and illegal practices, legible, and uncertain conditions have been the more prominent distinctions for articulating alternative modes of urban dwelling.