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POLICY REPORT NO. 20

At the City’s Margins: Coal, Land and Livelihoods in Chennai

Ennore’s coastal fishing villages, which are surrounded by coal-fired power plants, are often described as being at the social and geographical margins of Chennai. This report, however, argues that the city’s margins are not ‘natural’; they are constantly being made and remade through particular technologies of urban planning. The report emphasises that the process of developing coal-fired power plants entails not simply a material struggle between state authorities and marginalised communities over coal, land, and livelihoods, but also a struggle over the instruments and idioms of urban planning as a form of knowledge. From land acquisition and resettlement to environmental impact assessments and land use maps, these technologies of planning are replete with ambiguities and illegalities. The report analyses how the absence of clearly delineated land records, environmental impact assessments, and land use maps enable state authorities to further marginalise fishing communities. It also examines how fishers have challenged such ambiguities and illegalities in order to make political claims to lands and livelihoods.

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