Guwahati is one of the fastest-growing cities in India. Rising from a population of 100,000 to the current 1.4 million in the last 50 years, the city is expected to host 2.1 million people by 2025. Guwahati is an exemplar of cities of c. 1 million people – locales where much of contemporary urbanization is happening worldwide. Farmed animals, including cattle, pigs and chicken, are important cultural and financial investments for the urban poor. Cultivated ecologies interface with informality, generating a number of health and sanitation concerns, including recent outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis and African Swine Fever. The city has over 40,000 street dogs and two thousand macaques, although efforts to curb and control them are nowhere near the scale witnessed in Delhi. The city also has large forest patches which harbor urban wildlife including leopards and Asian elephants.
Guwahati might be termed an ‘ordinary city’ in that it does not have the same concentration of capital and power one witnesses in global metropolises. Yet, being part of India’s northeast, its social, cultural and ecological history is distinctive. This enables asking new questions regarding urban ecology and urbanization, which are not always evident when postcolonial urban theory is refracted from a specific set of urban familiars. Guwahati is crucial for provincializing urban theory and for developing alternate views on urbanization in the global South.