The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Loan Diep

Politics of Green Infrastructure in favelas

Research supervisors: Dr Priti Parikh and Dr David Dodman
Start date: September 2017

In megalopolises like São Paulo with major water resource management issues, river recovery intertwines with complex urban governance challenges. In dense and so-called informal areas in particular, interventions on river margins come with a range of implications, including regarding basic service provision such as sanitation, as well as land access and housing. While green infrastructure is conceptually attractive to urban planners, low-income areas remain largely excluded from such planning interventions.

Framed around an Environmental Justice perspective, the research draws lessons from river revitalisation projects in two neighbourhoods, where local governmental institutions opted for the construction of linear parks as part of wider slum upgrading interventions for the purpose of both protecting water resources and (re-)administrating "occupied" areas. Based on a mixed-method approach, the research analyses how planning and implementation processes have largely remained exclusive in both cases, while (lack of) performance has been articulated through discursive justifications reproducing systems of exclusion.

From the analysis of local perceptions and experiences, the study highlights a range of challenges to green infrastructure considering the dominant structures of urban governance in São Paulo. It further identifies leveraging opportunities building on community-led initiatives to construct a narrative for green infrastructure that can lead to urban transformative change.