Research Handbook on Law, Environment and the Global South
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Research Handbook on Law, Environment and the Global South

Edited by Philippe Cullet and Sujith Koonan

This comprehensive Research Handbook offers an innovative analysis of environmental law in the global South and contributes to an important reassessment of some of its major underlying concepts. The Research Handbook discusses areas rarely prioritized in environmental law, such as land rights, and underlines how these intersect with issues including poverty, livelihoods and the use of natural resources, challenging familiar narratives around development and sustainability in this context and providing new insights into environmental justice.
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Chapter 23: The informal waste sector: ‘surplus’ labour, detritus, and the right to the post-colonial city

Kaveri Gill


This chapter brings together extensive research on the urban informal waste and plastic recycling economy in Delhi in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The introduction focuses on the informal economy and the ‘need economy’ in contemporary India, before giving an overview of, and some key findings upon, that segment working in the particular domain of waste. The chapter goes on to trace salient urban and environmental policy developments, including the steady privatization of various aspects of the waste management system, and a closing of access to waste as a source of livelihood and enterprise to those in the urban informal economy. It concludes that this is an illustration of exclusion as hypothesized by Sanyal and Bhattacharya (2009) with coerced dispossession resulting in a flow of resources from the informal to the formal economy, and the decimation of the already marginalized informal waste workers and enterprise owners in India’s burgeoning ‘need economy’.

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