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Mumbai is one of Asia’s largest cities, in which urban spaces are the central arenas of political imagination and intervention. The past decade has seen the articulation of a new politics of space in Mumbai — through the contesting claims of the urban poor majority in slums and squatter settlements, assertive residents’ associations and civic reform movements, the prosperous construction industry and builder-politician nexus, and concerned practitioners in the design, architecture and research professions.

In spite of this increased awareness and concern with urban spaces, basic information on housing, land, infrastructure and environment — the right of citizens — remains largely inaccessible, because of bureaucratic obstacles and vested interests. This asymetry of information has given rise to predatory classes of builders and speculators, whose privileged access to information is transformed into “development rights” for construction, eroding accountability to local communities and urban stake-holders, and the planning policies meant to uphold their rights.

Existing applications of new spatial technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) for commercial services or scientific research remain distant from the needs of these grass-roots communities and local decision-makers. With the increasing demands of citizens for their rights to information on urban space — and recent legislative enactments and public interest litigation on freedom of information — we feel that communities can harness the power of new geo-spatial imaging and mapping technologies to strengthen their demands for secure tenure and housing rights, open and vibrant public spaces, and ecological conservation and sustainable development in the mega-city.

This proposal outlines a project to develop an open-access spatial data infrastructure, and a set of simple tools and applications in localised in Indian languages, for knowledge transfer and participatory urban planning by communities and citizens in the Mumbai Metrpolitan Region.

The projects of CRIT under this initiative include:

Mumbai Free Map Initiative

Community Based Information System

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