This paper examines the intersection between environmental pollution and people’s acknowledgements of, and responses to, health issues in Karhera, a former agricultural village situated between the rapidly expanding cities of New Delhi (India’s capital) and Ghaziabad (an industrial district in Uttar Pradesh).
A relational place-based view is integrated with an interpretive approach, highlighting the significance of place, people’s emic experiences, and the creation of meaning through social interactions. Research included surveying 1788 households, in-depth interviews, participatory mapping exercises, and a review of media articles on environment, pollution, and health.
Karhera experiences both domestic pollution, through the use of domestic waste water, or gandapani, for vegetable irrigation, and industrial pollution through factories’ emissions into both the air and water. The paper shows that there is no uniform articulation of any environment/health threats associated with gandapani. Some people take preventative actions to avoid exposure while others do not acknowledge health implications. By contrast, industrial pollution is widely noted and frequently commented upon, but little collective action addresses this. The paper explores how the characteristics of Karhera, its heterogeneous population, diverse forms of environmental pollution, and broader governance processes, limit the potential for citizen action against pollution.