Citizen networks in the Garden City: Protecting urban ecosystems in rapid urbanization 

Summary

Citizen groups can be important actors in urban environmental stewardship, and network structure often influences function and performance. However, most previous studies focus on cities in "developed" countries, thereby overlooking conditions relevant for the parts of the planet where most people live and most urban growth is expected.

This paper describes a citizen network engaged in environmental issues in Bangalore, India, where rapid urbanization puts pressure on conventional management structures as well as the ecosystems providing benefits for the city's inhabitants. The study uses a mixed methods approach of qualitative interviews and social network analysis. Results show that the citizen network functions as a platform that enables interaction between diverse interest groups, and as a watchdog that monitors parks, lakes and trees to prevent further loss of fragmented urban ecosystems.

The network's activities are influenced by internal tensions between inclusiveness and efficiency, and between internal and external legitimacy. Although core actors have central network positions, strong leadership or political alliances are not considered important; members instead prefer to emphasize transparency and democratic participation. This limits the capacity to act collectively on controversial issues, but creates an inclusive forum that bridges between groups in the heterogeneous and dynamic population.

This is important for monitoring Bangalore's fragmented ecosystems and for raising public awareness and support. Findings indicate an urgent need to develop a comprehensive framework for urban environmental stewardship, to better describe potential roles of citizens in governance across diverse social, political and ecological conditions, and during different periods of urban change. 

Information

Link to centre authors: Bodin, Örjan, Enqvist, Johan, Tengö, Maria
Publication info: Enqvist, J., M. Tengo, O. Bodin. 2014. Citizen networks in the Garden City: Protecting urban ecosystems in rapid urbanization. Landscape and Urban Planning. 130: 24-35