INTRODUCTION houses. According to the 2011 census a

 

INTRODUCTION

The title of my research “From farm to flat : Transformation of landscapes in the urban fringe of
Guwahati”, seeks to understand the process of setting up standardized,
similar looking buildings in landscapes that, were once farmland and wetland
around the fringes of Guwahati. Guwahati is a unique city in India which has
the perfect blend of hills, river and forests cover around the city. Guwahati,
prior to the 60s was a small town, the houses were small with large compounds.
However at present scenario, the structure of the city has changed to a large
extent in terms of housing. The capital came down in 1972, which brought a very
rapid growth of the town. There being no restrictions on reclamation of
agricultural lands  and helped by land
ceiling laws, more and more agricultural lands were filled up to build houses.
According to the 2011 census a large part of Guwahati is developed on wetlands.
Urban transformation has reached in the fringe areas of the city in the recent
past. Its not only that city’s core area is in transformation but as well in
the hinterland.

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 Scholar
(Annapurna Shaw 2007)  stated that the
expansion of urban India can be linked to the liberalization policies of the
government of India. Creation of residential spaces in the fringes  areas of the city is not a settlement among
the individuals by its own rather it is a process which is economic and
political in nature. In creating spaces there lies relation of power and
domination which may work in the form of imposition. This is an aspect of
neoliberalism, which are visible from the changes that are taking place in the urban
fringe areas. Liberalism in its old form (1990’s) was based on free market
economy, it was meant independent from the state but now it has been
politicized (Peck and Tickell 2002).  Neoliberalism
in its concrete form is associated with the construction of space like creation
of residential spaces, commercial space. My subject of study is about the
construction of buildings between areas of Satmile and Dharapur. In the past 15
years back the areas were basically farmland and wetland. I want to study how
the place has been transformed to residential areas which includes high rise
apartment?  Who are the actors involved
in those transformations? In what ways are areas occupied and re-classified
residential areas from farmland?

CONTEXT/SCOPE OF THE STUDY

There is a lot of contemporary research on
urbanization and urban transformation. While this study will focus on creation
of residential spaces and it has connection along with the other research in
understanding the creation of spaces, land use, neoliberal ideologies. Contemporary
urban theorists like Manuel Castells, David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre has studied
urban phenomena and studied the urban as a process which is structured in the
form of political and economic processes. While Neil Brenner has studied
urbanization as a variegated term which is rooted in political and ideological
instances. Jamie Peck has studied urban transformations in relation with
neoliberal ideologies.                         

                       In their seminal work on the urban
form, Brenner and Schmid stated “Across significant strands of the social
sciences and the design disciplines, the urban is treated as a fixed,
unchanging entity- as a universal form, settlement type or bounded spatial unit
(the city) that is being replicated across the globe. The urban can no longer
be understood as a universal form. The urban is not a fixed form but a process;
as such, it is dynamic, historically evolving and variegated”.          

                
In a recent study  Peck, Theodore
and Brenner (2009), explained “Neoliberal ideology rests upon a starkly utopian
vision of market rule, rooted in an idealized conception of competitive
individualism and a deep antipathy to forms of social and institutional
solidarity. While neoliberalism aspires to create a utopia of free markets,
liberated from all forms of state interference, it has in practice entailed a
dramatic intensification of coercive, disciplinary forms of state intervention
in order to impose versions of market rule and, subsequently, to manage the
consequences and contradictions of such marketization initiatives.” On the
contrary, cities have become increasingly central to the very reproduction,
extension and mutation of neoliberalism itself. Indeed, a marked urbanization
of neoliberalism has been occurring, as cities have become strategic targets
and proving grounds for an increasingly broad range of neoliberal policy
experiments, institutional innovations and political projects. Neoliberalism
should be understood as a process and not an end-state (Peck and Tickell 2002).
 These matters are important for the
Guwahati context as in the fringe areas of the city now it can be seen a
different landscape view which was not the scenario earlier. Land has been
acquired for building huge residential flats. In those creation there are
certain processes which without studying it cannot be known, how so drastically
transformation took place. Like what role does the government play in bringing
those changes.

 

LITERATURE REVIEW OF THEMATIC AREA:-

I locate my current research under the two broad
themes of (a) urban space and (b) urbanization

Urban space is necessary to understand how space is
created. In what ways are areas occupied and reclassified as residential areas
by the government. What role does local government play along with the state
government  in transformation of
landscapes. In creating spaces there lies forces of institutional structures
which is needed to study in order to understand the process of transformation
of landscapes in the fringe areas. Under Urban Space, the following topics
would be included (a) Urban Agglomeration (b) Demographic changes. (c)
Construction of buildings. The areas which I have planned to study, were
earlier basically farmland and wetland. At present the landscape has been
changed to residential areas (high rise apartments).

Annapurna Shaw’s book looks at “urban growth in the
post-liberalization era” (Indian Cities, 2012). She mentions about urban growth
of larger towns, spreading outwards of the city. Since 2000, the country’s
largest cities have been experiencing a construction boom from rapidly growing
residential and office real estate as well as from large infrastructure
projects such as flyovers, the creation and extension of metro systems,
shopping malls, high speed road connectors. In smaller cities, the change is
mostly confined to residential and office real estate and shopping malls. In
reality, much of the change is being driven by the needs of the internal
economy and one of the main drivers is demographies or the rate of growth of
population in these cities. The term urban agglomeration includes the core city
and its surrounding suburbs and outgrowths. Growing population, particularly in
the suburbs and peripheral areas of the largest urban agglomerations has had a
direct impact on the demand for goods and services and has led to further extensions
of the city. Spreading outwards to meet the rising demand for housing, school,
office space, hospitals. Indian cities are swallowing up smaller towns and
villages surrounding their periphery. The rapid growth of the peripheral areas
of major cities has been both positive and negative. Their growth story post
economic liberalization is not complete without mentioning the day to day
difficulties of those living in extended areas as well as the environment
impacts and ongoing conflicts over land.

              However growing population may not be
the ultimate factor in constructing buildings over the vast land. As in every
city this situation may not be the same.While the suburb is very much
applicable to the western countries especially in America, it may not be useful
to understand a similar condition in Assam. Therefore there is a need to historicize
a place. To understand the growth and construction of residential areas, not
only rate of population, but other factors have to be taken in consideration.

            She
also looks at the changing landscape of Indian Cities that happened post
independence period. After 1991 and the rapid growth experienced in many of the
larger cities, population densities have increased and so has the demand for
urban land. Apart from the large-scale urban redevelopment projects,
gentrification is also to be seen in smaller processes of change. In fact,
small-scale and often building by building redevelopment has always been
occurring in urban India but it has picked up speed in the last two decades. An
old property is bought by a private developer who then develops it to
accommodate several flats/apartments for residential uses or to supply office
space. The impact of such transformation can be seen in the core areas of
several cities, notably Mumbai where single-family detached bungalows in South
Mumbai are being converted to multi-storey apartments. Likewise in Delhi where
old suburbs such as the Rajendra Nagars that developed after partition in 1947
with one-storey and two-storey residential structures are now almost all four
to five storeys high.

           
The above mentioned literature is applicable at the present context,
however I want to add that not only larger cities experience this type of rapid
growth but a growing city like Guwahati is also at a stage where urban
transformation can be observed in the fringe areas of the city.