The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 180

Mapping for Environmental Justice: The Power of Maps in Karachi's Informal Settlements

WP180: Mapping for Environmental Justice

29 July 2015

Author: Rita Lambert

Publication Date: June 2015*

ISSN: 1474-3280

This paper adopts environmental justice as the broad normative framework. It departs from the premise that there is relevance in exploring tools that can be appropriated by communities, at the local scale, to facilitate the navigation of institutional barriers and work towards more just processes and outcomes. This paper proposes maps as political tools to advance interests and seeks to understand the role they play in the struggle for environmental justice. It begins by understanding the notion of power and how it is enacted in maps, in order to arrive at an analytical framework through which the emancipatory extent of maps is assessed. It subsequently analyses the case of mapping for sanitation in Karachi. And finally, it concludes with reflections on the importance of the ‘ownership’ of maps by local communities, and the care needed in their adoption, due to the inherently complex entanglement of power, which can be contested and reproduced all at the same time.


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