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Home page > Research Teams > The FOREST Team - Poverty, access to housing and conservation of peri-urban forests: the cases of Sao Paulo and Mumbai > Approaches


The Sanjay Gandhi Park is evidently much smaller in size than the Mata Atlantica Reserve: it presents nonetheless the same problems as the latter, but on a smaller scale; although the scales may be different, the processes and reasons are quite comparable, if not similar. We will simultaneously adopt two approaches, but avoid considering them as antagonistic.

The social approach

Can the concerns of the “green” civil society, which stems from the middle and often upper classes, be compatible with those of the “brown/red” civil society which is more concerned with social issues? Can environment be ignored to satisfy housing needs? In Mumbai, neither the Film City in the south-east nor the restaurants and pretty villas to the north of the park seem to be officially considered as “encroachments”. Are there two different standards for judging the powerful and the poor? The same question can be asked about the Sao Paolo Biosphere Reserve.

The ecological approach

How is it possible for a natural reserve to coexist with the suburbs of a megacity having a population of 16 to 18 millions? Biodiversity is a resource for the inhabitants (firewood), but it is also a danger (every year several persons are killed by leopards on the outskirts of Mumbai). Similarly, the proximity of the city can be an asset for the conservation of biodiversity (the advantages of maintaining this resource from the environmental viewpoint as well as for water supply and a space for relaxation), but it also represents a threat. Certainly, there is a tendency today not to oppose the conservation of biodiversity to upholding the rights of use and to opening up reserves under the guise of participation of the local population (called Joint Forest Management in India). Are such approaches suitable for peri-urban forests where uses and stakes are very different from rural forests?

It is obvious how the two approaches, social and ecological, are closely interrelated in actual practice. A part of the tragedies – both human and environmental – from which the regions under study suffer, stem from our inability to tackle these issues simultaneously at the meeting-point of nature and society.


- Defining the sectors of study: we will select sectors that seemingly present the most contradictory uses, namely sectors occupied by illegal settlements.
- Use of aerial photographs and satellite imagery for demarcating sectors and monitoring changes caused by urban expansion into forest areas.
- Collection of data: first-hand and second-hand statistics from residents, institutions in charge and non-governmental actors. The research will be both qualitative and quantitative, making use of closed questionnaires as well as open interviews.
- Juxtaposition of data and assessment of the impact of policies related to environmental conservation as compared to the needs of people living in these sectors (scientific interaction reinforced by SLUM Team).

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Social Exclusion, Territories and Urban Policies
A Comparison Between India and Brazil

A Research Programme funded by ANR
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Last Update :  Tuesday 22 December 2009

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