Clean city politics: An urban political ecology of solid waste in West Bengal, India

Natasha Cornea*, René Véron, Anna Zimmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
477 Downloads (Pure)


Solid waste management is often perceived as one of the most pressing environmental problems facing local governments in urban India and elsewhere in the global south. However, solid waste is not simply a managerial problem but is in many ways a highly political issue that involves diverse political actors at different scales. Particularly at the local level, solid waste management can also be a key part of broader political strategies, acting through its unique materiality as an environmental artefact and social relic. In this paper, we use an urban political ecology approach to examine a recent segregation-at-source project in a small town in West Bengal as a lens to understand more general multi-scalar, socio-political urban processes. Drawing primarily upon qualitative field research, the paper shows how diffuse forms of power and different governmentalities were applied between and within state-level government agents, municipal authorities, local waste workers and local communities to implement and (re)shape this project. The research points to the complexity of urban environmental governance and everyday politics in which action repertoires ranging from threats, the creation of environmental and hygienic subjects, moral appeals and economic rationality, underpinned by the harmful character of waste and by socio-cultural imaginaries thereof, (re)produced uneven political ecologies of waste between and within different neighbourhoods of the city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-744
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number4
Early online date6 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • environmental governance
  • India
  • small cities
  • Solid waste management
  • urban political ecology
  • urban politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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