Stewardship as a concept is increasingly brought forward as a goal to reach sustainability goals of ensuring human wellbeing within the limits of Earth’s life support systems. Scholarship on the required capacities for planetary stewardship is growing rapidly, as are the insights. This thesis focuses on contributing with knowledge about what stewardship implies in terms of civic engagement in environmental issues, particularly in contexts where these can be particularly challenging: rapidly changing cities. Paper I describes the internal functioning of a citizen network engaged in various environmental issues in Bangalore, India. Analyzing social network structure and desired outcomes, it shows that while the loose structure inhibits efficiency, it encourages inclusiveness and builds legitimacy among members. Despite a reduced capacity to actively mobilize members, the network facilitates ecosystem monitoring and serves as an information platform to connect diverse groups across the city. Paper II describes how local engagement to restore Bangalorean lakes can influence city-level governance of water supply. Following key events in the 1960s, Bangalore has become increasingly dependent on a single source of water and seems unable to explore other supply approaches for its rapidly growing population. The study shows that the system’s trap-like dynamics can be rewired by citizen-based lake groups by incentivizing authorities to break long-standing centralization trends. By re- acknowledging the water bodies’ multifunctional role as man-made water harvesting units, groups have gathered local support and improved monitoring to protect lakes after restoration. Together, the two papers show that civic involvement in urban environmental stewardship can improve governance by complementing and acting as a watchdog over public authorities.
Citizen groups can be important actors in urban environmental stewardship, and network structure often influences function and performance. However, most previous studies focus on cities in developed countries, thereby overlooking conditions relevant for the parts of the planet where most people live and most urban growth is expected. This paper describes a citizen network engaged in environmental issues in Bangalore, India, where rapid urbanization puts pressure on conventional management structures as well as the ecosystems providing benefits for the city's inhabitants. The study uses a mixed methods approach of qualitative interviews and social network analysis. Results show that the citizen network functions as a platform that enables interaction between diverse interest groups, and as a watchdog that monitors parks, lakes and trees to prevent further loss of fragmented urban ecosystems. The network's activities are influenced by internal tensions between inclusiveness and efficiency, and between internal and external legitimacy. Although core actors have central network positions, strong leadership or political alliances are not considered important; members instead prefer to emphasize transparency and democratic participation. This limits the capacity to act collectively on controversial issues, but creates an inclusive forum that bridges between groups in the heterogeneous and dynamic population. This is important for monitoring Bangalore's fragmented ecosystems and for raising public awareness and support. Findings indicate an urgent need to develop a comprehensive framework for urban environmental stewardship, to better describe potential roles of citizens in governance across diverse social, political and ecological conditions, and during different periods of urban change.