Landscapes produced as a result of intensive human activity such as mining-quarrying sites, salt pan lands, garbage dump yards, industrial wasteland, lands arising from intensive agriculture are generally seen through the lens of chemical degradation and environmental pollution. Here, the research, assigns the term 'post-intensive landscape’ to describe these landscapes that have moved past the stage of intensive human activity and we try to set-up criteria to identify the same. By doing this we aim to examine the factors that lead to the creation of such landscapes and the larger processes they symbolize post their creation. By acknowledging such lands and the circumstances of their production, we seek to investigate the challenges of our current understanding of what inhabitations of these landscapes mean.
The research thus does not see such landscapes as resultants of chemical processes and degradation but rather a space where bio-social relationships come to shape its inhabitations and practices. In doing this, the bio - social lens allows us to firstly acknowledge that there is a problem in the current definitions of landscapes of intensive activity, where there is a rush to the post. These definitions have emerged mainly from Euro american experience and this is a teleological problem here. Such clear linear transitions rarely form the Indian experience of from the industrial to the post industrial.
The second concern we open is that there is an interpretive problem in the conceptualisation of these landscapes as wastelands where the futures here are seen in an impasse arising out of largely social fractures. This may also be because the textual and visual interpretations are based on wounds, scars, voids of nothingness and unwanted grime on the environment. There is also a methodological problem in understanding the natural habitats in which there is usually an epistemological and cultural difference in nature. This means there is a need to reread the fractures, and thus how do you engage with the relationality of communities, inhabitations and practices in the surrounding areas.
The third aspect we investigate is, the language in which such landscapes are conceptualised, the strategies that come to address it such as restoration, rehabilitation, remediation and get limited to culturally providing industrial heritage museums, commercial districts, green tourism gardens, etc. These interventions fracture the complex claims that are made by communities on land, environment and thus the futures.
Therefore through this research, the intention is to open up provocations beyond the sketch of extreme ends of a future: which is a dystopian future as wasteland resulting from intensive processes, on the one hand, and a utopian future of ecological restoration of land to pristine nature, on the other hand. And then question how does the act of drawing and drawing out through careful looking and listening bring out the stories of such inhabitations we have come to term as post intensive landscapes. By doing this, we aims to examine the new spatial types and uses that arise in relation to these lands, and the architectural questions these pose.
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Timeline of Major Developments in the Administration of Degraded Lands
Land, and the development of it, is not a product of objective history. The research aims to identify landscapes that have undergone intense human activity and are altered and degraded due to extensive human use, through supposition, personal accounts, historical data, and popular media to create a unbiased, interpretable account or ‘story’ of the land. The research does not stick to a language of policy making and planning in a historical and visual narrative, treating landscapes as metaphors, allowing accounts to be more descriptive, and avoiding allegiance with existing factions within the environmental narrative. The format of the ‘story’ is provocative rather than instructive and mobilises fiction and magical realism, and the research intends to raise questions when it comes to understanding new ecologies as systems that refute existing notions, especially in relation to their futures under a bio social framework of looking at such landscapes. From a glossary of wastelands identified in the country, cases that represent various kinds of post-intensive landscapes are shortlisted and studied in detail. They would form the case studies through which the questions regarding the environment and the idea of inhabiting ‘new natures’ is addressed, expressed as ‘Stories of the land’ and ‘Stories of the Futures Present’. These would map/comment upon how do popular narratives resource exhaustion or resource threat manifest in the spatial habitation of land, and spatial change over time, which in itself is a result of culture and also creates new culture and relationships. The methodology used to study these places is mostly ethnographic interviews, survey of secondary sources and observation, drawing out of stories in various forms.
A. Lands degraded from resource extraction: A resource-rich region left completely or partially barren post the depletion of the resource.
1. Mining Sites
3. Sites subject to Over-grazing
4. Deforested sites
B. Contaminated Landscapes: Lands that are polluted, rendered unproductive or unsuitable for inhabitation due to physical or chemical contamination.
1. Industrial Sites
2. Lands polluted due to agriculture
3. Dumping grounds
C. Altered Landscapes: Lands that are permanently altered in physiology or geomorphology due to human action, resulting in the creation of an entirely new ecosystem in the region.
1. Flood affected lands due to construction of dams
2. Reclaimed lands
New natures of Sonshi’s (post) extractive landscapes
Kavlo has toiled to revive his paddy farms and is worried about the future of his hamlet which is nestled amidst the water-filled, martian craters and blue tarpaulin mountains covering iron ore rejects. Most villagers here have lost their income because of the mining ban. He lives in the madhlya wado and represents the oldest inhabitants of the Adivasi Gawda community, known for their prowess in cultivating khazan fields and practicing shared land rights over village land. Trucker another resident, lives in the Khalchya wado and represents migrants who, after the 1940s, settled in Sonshi from states across India and work tenuously as truck drivers or manual labourers.
Bhatcar another actor forbids Kavlo to enter and cultivate his paddy farms and orchards. Bhatcar lives in the varchya wado and represents Goa’s Desai community of Konkani Maratha moneylenders who were introduced by the Portuguese rule as land administrators and tax collectors under the communidade law. This relegated the Gawdas’ as tenants who tilled land. Company- one of the cats, wants to continue mining and sell the soil beneath these blue mountains. While the newly planted nilgiri reminds him Sarkar who hopes to use afforestation to turn the hilly mining landscape to its pristine condition.
To this, he wonders, ‘What does the future hold for us?’
On his stroll to calm his anxiety he passes the village commons and abandoned mines. Here his senses open to unusual sights of the supposedly disappeared long tailed devil langur. Towards the mining pit he hears a thunderous splash of the sharp toothed magar probably feasting on rohu and katla. He wonders, “When did this change take place?” He realises that several non-human species - the small fish - quietly took over the woods while big cats squabble to reshape the hilly, mining territory.