Infrastructure services such as water, electricity, and mass transit are central to urban livelihoods. Yet large populations in the developing world receive poor quality services, or lack access entirely. This presentation will illustrate the importance of understanding network structure in analyzing the political geography of urban water supply in Bangalore, India. It will focus on service frequency and predictability—dimensions of service quality that have received insufficient attention within the development literature. Drawing on data from a socially- and economically diverse section of eastern Bangalore, it will show that household characteristics such as religion, caste and income do not predict variation in the frequency or predictability of piped water; rather, variation occurs at the “valve area” level, or the smallest units at which water pressure can be distributed. Households in low-income valve areas receive more frequent and regular service than those in more affluent ones, contrary to most of the political economy literature to date.
Alison Post is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Metropolitan Studies at U.C. Berkeley and Co-Director of the Global Metropolitan Studies Program. Her research focuses on the politics of building and managing urban infrastructure, urban politics, and comparative political economy more broadly.