Hita Unnikrishnan, a Newton International Fellow, recently attending a workshop: ‘Difficult doings: investigating the challenging practice of sustainable urban development’ at Clare College Conferencing, Cambridge.

This workshop was organized by KTH- Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm and The University of Cambridge, to bring together practitioners and academics to engage with situated practices surrounding sustainable development in urban contexts. The focus was on ideas of sustainable development as they emerged from specific contexts along with practical challenges involved. This was also done to bring together academic and practitioner based perspectives for a potential edited volume later this year.

A paper titled: “Producing collaborative sustainable urban development: experiences of water management in Bangalore, India”, authored by Hita Unnikrishnan, Vanesa Castán Broto, (from the Urban Institute) and Harini Nagendra (from Azim Premji University, Bangalore) was presented at this workshop. The paper discussed the political nature of coproduction practices in urban landscapes and the need to factor this complexity into decision making, using the case of the man-made interconnected lakes within the city of Bangalore.

A few themes around sustainable development that emerged out of the two days of discussion were the ideas of ownership and leverage around urban spaces, pervasive nature of land politics, the complexity involved in collaborative efforts and the decision to politicize an issue of sustainability and the questions we use to actually define and question practices of urban planning. Further discussions also questioned the effect of an unsustainable global economy in planning for sustainable development as also the social construction of nature that is primarily based on western understandings, which would then have implications for equality and justice.