Accepted paper:

Picturing the Environment: Mapping Technologies in the Coastal Regulatory Zone in India


Chitra Venkataramani (Johns Hopkins University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how globally available mapping technologies and satellite imagery are used as representations of our environment and as a means of promoting different claims by both state agencies and other organizations.

Paper long abstract:

One of the key representations of a globalized world is a small satellite image of our planet. It is also an important image used to promote sustainable practices. I examine how satellite images are used to represent different, and often conflicting environmental claims in the context of the coastal zone in Mumbai. In 2011, the Indian government released notification called the Coastal Regulation Zone or CRZ. One of the main aims of the CRZ is to protect ecologically sensitive coastal areas. Since an abstract measurement (the highest high tide line recorded in 10 years) determines the CRZ, maps become essential tools for locating and recognizing these zones; a fact that is addressed in the new notification. The government specified that each state would undertake the task of mapping these areas using satellite imagery and GIS technology. In the context of Mumbai, the CRZ is a crucial means of protecting mangroves and fishing settlements. Recently, fishing communities have begun approaching planners to map their settlements in order to create new development plans. Simultaneously, environmental organizations in the city have been using Google Earth and other publicly available mapping tools to delineate and protect mangroves. I will look at how these simultaneous mapping processes intersect in the context of the CRZ, and how globally available satellite imagery is presented as crucial pieces of evidence. In this way, I ask how new ubiquitous mapping technologies and satellite images are called upon to represent the environment and present different pictures of the same landscape.

panel P28
The aesthetics of governance