PEIPs 2022-2023: IIT Madras

Re-Conceptualizing Urban Disaster and Climate Risk: An Ethnographic Exploration of the Everyday Spatiality of Urban Informal Labour in Waste Management



As urban space expands with inequalities, homelessness, deprivation and poor access to public amenities is being integrated as ‘the normal beingness’ in the city life of India. The informalization of the labour market in Indian cities is an agent of adaptation to cities’ limited space/resources. Urban space in India is a dynamic one. It changes on an everyday basis. Spatial inequality is internalized in the life world of informal urban settlements. Internalisation is an adaptation as well. Adaptation to risk again relate to individual capability to tolerate risks. The mainstream understanding of urban risks goes along with administrative ability to govern and strategies to reduce the impacts of disasters and climate change. However, for the participants of an urban informal sector, risk is an individual struggle to survive.

This PEIP thus intends to capture these contradictions in our current understanding of Urban Risk and Sustainability. It proposes to explore the possibilities of combining ethnographic approaches, including visualization techniques, with technologies like GIS/RS and AI/ML, to comprehensively capture the spatiality of Urban risk centered around informal labour. Thus, it bridges the vertical, horizontal and linear perspectives to understand and address urban risk and sustainability comprehensively.

SDG #11 Target: 11.6 – Reduce the environmental impacts of cities


Goal: By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to municipal and other waste management.

Definition: The proportion of urban solid waste regularly collected and with adequate final discharge out of total urban solid waste generated, by cities.



This indicator measures the share of urban solid waste regularly collected and with adequate final discharge out of total urban solid waste generated. Data is only available at the regional (not national) level:



Cooperation partners

Kachra Vahutuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS) was started in 1996. It works on the labour issues like persecution and harassment of labours, non-payment of minimum wages, denial of compensation, arrears and pension, equal wages, etc. The organization use different tools and techniques to bring together unorganized worker on a common platform.
In India, 92 percent of total employment is informal in nature and a large percentage of those in the informal economy are the poor. In January 2005, the total employment in the Indian economy was 458 million of which the unorganized sector accounted for 395 million. KVSS is committed to work for the people working in this unorganized sector specially labours in Solid Waste Management. These are the people who clean the city and provide a clean, healthy surroundings for residents but they never get care more over treated badly by these same residents and officials also.