INTRODUCTIONThe title of my research “From farm to flat : Transformation of landscapes in the urban fringe ofGuwahati”, seeks to understand the process of setting up standardized,similar looking buildings in landscapes that, were once farmland and wetlandaround the fringes of Guwahati.
Guwahati is a unique city in India which hasthe perfect blend of hills, river and forests cover around the city. Guwahati,prior to the 60s was a small town, the houses were small with large compounds.However at present scenario, the structure of the city has changed to a largeextent in terms of housing. The capital came down in 1972, which brought a veryrapid growth of the town. There being no restrictions on reclamation ofagricultural lands and helped by landceiling laws, more and more agricultural lands were filled up to build houses.According to the 2011 census a large part of Guwahati is developed on wetlands.Urban transformation has reached in the fringe areas of the city in the recentpast.
Its not only that city’s core area is in transformation but as well inthe hinterland. Scholar(Annapurna Shaw 2007) stated that theexpansion of urban India can be linked to the liberalization policies of thegovernment of India. Creation of residential spaces in the fringes areas of the city is not a settlement amongthe individuals by its own rather it is a process which is economic andpolitical in nature. In creating spaces there lies relation of power anddomination which may work in the form of imposition. This is an aspect ofneoliberalism, which are visible from the changes that are taking place in the urbanfringe areas.
Liberalism in its old form (1990’s) was based on free marketeconomy, it was meant independent from the state but now it has beenpoliticized (Peck and Tickell 2002). Neoliberalismin its concrete form is associated with the construction of space like creationof residential spaces, commercial space. My subject of study is about theconstruction of buildings between areas of Satmile and Dharapur.
In the past 15years back the areas were basically farmland and wetland. I want to study howthe place has been transformed to residential areas which includes high riseapartment? Who are the actors involvedin those transformations? In what ways are areas occupied and re-classifiedresidential areas from farmland? CONTEXT/SCOPE OF THE STUDYThere is a lot of contemporary research onurbanization and urban transformation. While this study will focus on creationof residential spaces and it has connection along with the other research inunderstanding the creation of spaces, land use, neoliberal ideologies. Contemporaryurban theorists like Manuel Castells, David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre has studiedurban phenomena and studied the urban as a process which is structured in theform of political and economic processes. While Neil Brenner has studiedurbanization as a variegated term which is rooted in political and ideologicalinstances. Jamie Peck has studied urban transformations in relation withneoliberal ideologies.
In their seminal work on the urbanform, Brenner and Schmid stated “Across significant strands of the socialsciences and the design disciplines, the urban is treated as a fixed,unchanging entity- as a universal form, settlement type or bounded spatial unit(the city) that is being replicated across the globe. The urban can no longerbe understood as a universal form. The urban is not a fixed form but a process;as such, it is dynamic, historically evolving and variegated”.
In a recent study Peck, Theodoreand Brenner (2009), explained “Neoliberal ideology rests upon a starkly utopianvision of market rule, rooted in an idealized conception of competitiveindividualism and a deep antipathy to forms of social and institutionalsolidarity. While neoliberalism aspires to create a utopia of free markets,liberated from all forms of state interference, it has in practice entailed adramatic intensification of coercive, disciplinary forms of state interventionin order to impose versions of market rule and, subsequently, to manage theconsequences and contradictions of such marketization initiatives.” On thecontrary, cities have become increasingly central to the very reproduction,extension and mutation of neoliberalism itself. Indeed, a marked urbanizationof neoliberalism has been occurring, as cities have become strategic targetsand proving grounds for an increasingly broad range of neoliberal policyexperiments, institutional innovations and political projects. Neoliberalismshould be understood as a process and not an end-state (Peck and Tickell 2002). These matters are important for theGuwahati context as in the fringe areas of the city now it can be seen adifferent landscape view which was not the scenario earlier. Land has beenacquired for building huge residential flats. In those creation there arecertain processes which without studying it cannot be known, how so drasticallytransformation took place.
Like what role does the government play in bringingthose changes. LITERATURE REVIEW OF THEMATIC AREA:-I locate my current research under the two broadthemes of (a) urban space and (b) urbanizationUrban space is necessary to understand how space iscreated. In what ways are areas occupied and reclassified as residential areasby the government. What role does local government play along with the stategovernment in transformation oflandscapes. In creating spaces there lies forces of institutional structureswhich is needed to study in order to understand the process of transformationof landscapes in the fringe areas.
Under Urban Space, the following topicswould be included (a) Urban Agglomeration (b) Demographic changes. (c)Construction of buildings. The areas which I have planned to study, wereearlier basically farmland and wetland. At present the landscape has beenchanged to residential areas (high rise apartments).Annapurna Shaw’s book looks at “urban growth in thepost-liberalization era” (Indian Cities, 2012). She mentions about urban growthof larger towns, spreading outwards of the city. Since 2000, the country’slargest cities have been experiencing a construction boom from rapidly growingresidential and office real estate as well as from large infrastructureprojects such as flyovers, the creation and extension of metro systems,shopping malls, high speed road connectors. In smaller cities, the change ismostly confined to residential and office real estate and shopping malls.
Inreality, much of the change is being driven by the needs of the internaleconomy and one of the main drivers is demographies or the rate of growth ofpopulation in these cities. The term urban agglomeration includes the core cityand its surrounding suburbs and outgrowths. Growing population, particularly inthe suburbs and peripheral areas of the largest urban agglomerations has had adirect impact on the demand for goods and services and has led to further extensionsof the city. Spreading outwards to meet the rising demand for housing, school,office space, hospitals. Indian cities are swallowing up smaller towns andvillages surrounding their periphery. The rapid growth of the peripheral areasof major cities has been both positive and negative.
Their growth story posteconomic liberalization is not complete without mentioning the day to daydifficulties of those living in extended areas as well as the environmentimpacts and ongoing conflicts over land. However growing population may not bethe ultimate factor in constructing buildings over the vast land. As in everycity this situation may not be the same.While the suburb is very muchapplicable to the western countries especially in America, it may not be usefulto understand a similar condition in Assam. Therefore there is a need to historicizea place. To understand the growth and construction of residential areas, notonly rate of population, but other factors have to be taken in consideration.
Shealso looks at the changing landscape of Indian Cities that happened postindependence period. After 1991 and the rapid growth experienced in many of thelarger cities, population densities have increased and so has the demand forurban land. Apart from the large-scale urban redevelopment projects,gentrification is also to be seen in smaller processes of change.
In fact,small-scale and often building by building redevelopment has always beenoccurring in urban India but it has picked up speed in the last two decades. Anold property is bought by a private developer who then develops it toaccommodate several flats/apartments for residential uses or to supply officespace. The impact of such transformation can be seen in the core areas ofseveral cities, notably Mumbai where single-family detached bungalows in SouthMumbai are being converted to multi-storey apartments.
Likewise in Delhi whereold suburbs such as the Rajendra Nagars that developed after partition in 1947with one-storey and two-storey residential structures are now almost all fourto five storeys high. The above mentioned literature is applicable at the present context,however I want to add that not only larger cities experience this type of rapidgrowth but a growing city like Guwahati is also at a stage where urbantransformation can be observed in the fringe areas of the city.