Green infrastructure in informal settlements through a multiple-level perspective

Loan Diep
University College London, London, United Kingdom; loan.diep.10@ucl.ac.uk

David Dodman
Human Settlements Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK; david.dodman@iied.org

Priti Parikh
University College London, London, United Kingdom; priti.parikh@ucl.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to highlight limits in the current conceptualisation and implementation of urban Green Infrastructure (GI), particularly in informal settlements. We propose a Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) that helps analyse and identify opportunities to overcome such limits. The article starts by discussing the concept of GI and proposes its definition through the principles of multifunctionality, interlinkages and exchange. Recognising current gaps in implementation in the context of informal settlements, we argue for the better understanding of the range of socio-political conditions which enable or impede GI practices. To reflect on these gaps, the article uses MLP to explore persisting socio-ecological-infrastructural problems in water management, which could be perpetuated through current GI practices. MLP is used as a heuristic framework to analyse influencing factors that exist at multiple interconnected societal and bio-physical levels. The framework is applied to the city of São Paulo in Brazil where traditional water management has resulted in tensions between social and ecological systems between the regime (which encompasses institutional structures) and the niche (where innovations emerge, for example through grassroots movements). Examples of community initiatives are used that demonstrate a disconnection between top-down structures and everyday practices. We conclude that if GI presents the potential to support a transition towards water management that benefits both social and ecological systems, further characterisation of the concept is required.

KEYWORDS: Green infrastructure, informal settlements, sustainability transitions, multi-level perspective, São Paulo, Brazil