Informal Settlements and Greening Dilemmas


  • Elgar Kamjou University College Dublin
  • Mark Scott University College Dublin
  • Mick Lennon University College Dublin




Green interventions have been applied to a growing number of cities to address climate change adaptation, nature recovery and sustainable development. However, such interventions in cities of the global South can exacerbate inequalities and result in green gentrification, residents' displacement and the relocation of informal settlements (Anguelovski, Irazábal‐Zurita and Connolly, 2019; Matsler, Meerow, Mell and Pavao-Zuckerman, 2021). Only recently have scholars paid attention to uneven land-use regulations in greening approaches toward informal settlements. Studies illustrate that eviction policies and the relocation of informal settlements have been justified by planning authorities under the banner of ecological improvement and climate adaptation. However, these are often resisted by the residents of informal settlements (Anguelovski, Irazábal‐Zurita and Connolly, 2019).

This paper questions the inclusiveness of the greening approaches and their position regarding the marginalised groups of informal settlers in cities of the global South. It builds upon and extends this nascent bank of knowledge by mobilising the conflicting rationalities framework to illustrate how green interventions conventionally framed as a ‘win-win’ can exacerbate inequitable urban redevelopments, leading to exclusion and conflict (Yiftachel, 2020; De Satgé and Watson, 2018).

Drawing on a detailed documentary review and 39 interviews, the paper qualitatively examines a case of greening plans for the Farahzad informal settlement in the Tehran metropolitan area, Iran. It illuminates the conflicting rationalities shaping the discourse on green space within and between multiple planning actors including planning authorities, residents, planning consultants, the neighbourhood council, and NGOs.

The analysis reveals how conflicting rationalities perpetuate green inequalities in informal settlements, where authorities prioritise formal residents' interests over informal dwellers. The scarcity of green assets intensifies the struggle, rendering informal settlements susceptible to displacement. The paper discusses how such conflicting rationalities result from: the neglect of residents' claim to their self-built neighbourhood and properties; the differentially perceived role of residents in degrading/maintaining green areas; as well as negative presumptions toward residents of informal settlements.

Author Biographies

  • Elgar Kamjou, University College Dublin

    Post doctoral researcher

    School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy
  • Mark Scott, University College Dublin

    Professor of Planning and Dean of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning and environmental Policy in UCD. 

  • Mick Lennon, University College Dublin
    Associate Professor School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy