'Living Cities' Talks Series: “Planning Does Not Change Anything”: Negotiating Climate Action in Mumbai

Presentation by Nikhil Anand (University of Pennsylvania/Wolfson College Oxford)


The event will be followed by drinks.
To attend, please register here.

With Nikhil Anand (University of Pennsylvania/Wolfson College Oxford)
Convened by Perig Pitrou (MFO)

This paper puts Mumbai’s Climate Action Planning process in conversation with a longer tradition of urban spatial planning to ask after their limits.  The paper begins by focusing on some of the working assumptions of urban planning– in particular the grounds upon which urban and regional plans are made.  Next it describes some of the opportunities and foreclosures of the city’s recently concluded climate action planning process.   Finally, it dwells in the ways that it has been received by engineers and administrators working in the city’s storm water department.  Based on ongoing histories and practices in the living city, the paper demonstrates why plans for addressing flooding in the city continue to grind against terrestrial, land-based thinking and infrastructures of the dried city; the patterns of thought with which modern cities have been made.


Nikhil Anand is an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on cities, infrastructure, state power and climate change. He addresses these questions by studying the political ecology of cities, read through the different lives of water. His first book, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Politics in Mumbai (Duke University Press 2017), examines the everyday ways in which cities and citizens are made through the everyday management of water infrastructure. Following his interest in infrastructure studies in political anthropology, geography, and science and technology studies, Anand co-edited (with Hannah Appel and Akhil Gupta) The Promise of Infrastructure (Duke University Press 2018). The book shows how infrastructure provides a generative analytic and site to rethink questions of time, development and politics in different parts of the world. As a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College in 2022-23, he is currently working on a new book. Titled Urban Sea, the book decenters the grounds of urban planning by drawing attention to the ways in which climate-changed seas are remaking coastal cities today.

About the 'Living Cities' Talks Series:

Considering the ecological challenges of urban planning projects, contemporary societies must invent new ways of coexisting with non-human life forms and improving the living conditions of humans, while integrating them more harmoniously into natural environments. While establishing a dialogue with the medical sciences, natural sciences and engineering sciences, the humanities and social sciences provide fundamental insights into the technical and social dynamics at work in the way cities are built and inhabited.

By inviting researchers engaged in a reflection on the multiple scales of relations between Life and Cities, the "Living Cities" Talks Series aims to identify the main problems which need to be solved to learn how to better inhabit our planet.