Chance2Sustain Dissemination Meeting, York, September 2011

Reconfiguring the Fast Growing City: Exploring the interaction between Urban Governance, Mega Projects and settlement dynamics in Cases from India and South Africa


The Chance2Sustain project team held its annual dissemination meeting in September 2011 in York during the EADI-DSA Rethinking Development Conference to discuss project related issues and showcase preliminary research results from the case studies. This first panel entitled Reconfiguring the Fast Growing City: Exploring the Interaction between Urban Governance, Mega-Projects and Settlement Dynamics in Cases from India and South Africa was organised by Loraine Kennedy and Glen Robbins as part of the Chance2Sustain work on large-scale urban projects and sub-standard settlements. The panel was divided in two sessions chaired respectively by Einar Braathen and Loraine Kennedy. Discussants Monique Bertrand (IRD, Paris) and Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL, London) were invited to comment on the Chance2Sustain presentations and challenge the team.

David Jordhus-Lier on the N2 Gateway and the Joe Slovo community in Cape Town

The presentations focused on large-scale urban projects as well as contestations and eviction drives in selected cases from India and South Africa. The seven papers were related to settlement dynamics, mega projects and urban governance in the cities of Chennai and Delhi in India, and Cape Town and Durban in South Africa. The three presentations on Delhi showcased the new dynamics of real estate development and the related conflicts between different sets of actors, the politics of land-use change along the Yamuna river front as well as population dynamics through the context of slum settlements. South African examples introduced sociological aspects by illustrating the territorialisation of interest, mega projects as the system for driving city and regional development and the conflicts occurring between the state and private actors in the case of Cornubia housing project in Durban. The presentation on Chennai illustrated the conflicts related to the IT corridor by the means of multiple actors and related conflicts of interest. All the presentations addressed the spatial dimension of mega projects through theoretical references as well as empirical arguments.


During the discussion, questions related to the economics of mega-projects were raised, suggesting a critical approach be used to weigh project costs against expected benefits. For instance, it was pointed out that the Delhi metro was a very high priority for the government, although it is not affordable to many if not most residents. Also the need to examine current projects in the light of the historical development of each city was underscored, since the modernisation drive also involved large-scale projects. In some of the presentations, as in the case of Chennai, there were clear attempts to distinguish state actors at different levels and it was suggested that similarly it might be important to take into consideration the role played by the bureaucracy and other non elected bodies involved in the development process. Although the papers responded to the various challenges thrown up by their respective case studies, the analysis of “urban governance” was limited in some presentations. The discussants suggested caution when handling the mega-project category, because although it has been widely used in studies of urban change in the North it is not clear whether the same logics are at work in the context of the global South. Discussions also drew attention to a disconnect between the pace of implementation: very rapid in the case of mega projects and rather slow for the traditional urban planning exercise involving master plans of the cities. Likewise, one can contrast the attention given to mega projects vs. micro and meso projects that exist side by side. The relevance of Mega-projects in terms of scale was also discussed.

Einar Braathen, left, Chair of the first session

The relevance of studying the transformation of slums in the West for understanding the present day situation in developing countries was challenged. For the slum settlements in Delhi, questions were also invited about the informal economy and the impact of mega projects in terms of employment. It was interestingly pointed out that mega projects in Durban, heavily backed by public investment, have been underperforming with regard to job creation and fostering private investment. In contrast, in the case of Chennai IT corridor with high levels of public as well as private investment, numerous jobs were created but not necessarily matching local labour supply.

Finally it can be concluded that the presentations inspired a cross sectional comparison of various issues related to mega project development and settlement dynamics in the context of India and South Africa supported by empirical case studies. The discussions opened new areas for further reflection and contributed to the ongoing debates within the team on informal settlements, social sustainability, urban politics, and governance.


Report by Tara Saharan and Loraine Kennedy

About Chance2Sustain:


Chance2Sustain is a research project examining how governments and citizens in Indian, South African, Peruvian and Brazilian cities with differing patterns of urban economic growth make use of participatory (or integrated) spatial knowledge management to direct urban governance towards more sustainable development. Read more

Reconfiguring the Fast Growing City Presentations:


The impact of the Dube-TradePort/ King Shaka International Airport mega-project on city resource allocation decisions in Durban, South Africa by Glen Robbins, Diane Scott & Catherine Sutherland

Recent Chance2Sustain Publications