'Like the Drifting Grains of Sand': Vulnerability, Security and Adjustment by Communities in the Charlands of the Damodar River, India

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Gopa Samanta

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Charlands are islands formed in major river systems particularly in the flat deltaic plains such as those in the Bengal delta in eastern India and Bangladesh. The charlands in the lower reaches of the Damodar River in India are prone to frequent floods, shifting river channels and consequent riverbank erosion. In spite of these risks posed by the environment, migrant communities from Bihar and Bangladesh settle in the charlands because the soils are fertile, and because being untitled, they are relatively cheaper than legal lands. This paper explores the mental maps or perceptions that the chouras - the charland inhabitants - have of their places of living. We ask: How do the chouras see their fragile environment? Our findings are as follows: first of all, we agree that the perceptions of vulnerability and insecurity are subjective, and may differ widely between different communities or groups living in the charlands. Secondly, we note that 'adaptation' might be too broad a term; the specific process is more contingent than a long-term adaptation and best described as 'adjustment'. Finally, we note that in light of our study into the livelihoods that people keep pursuing in marginal environments such as that of chars, a felt need has arisen to redefine categories such as 'resilience', 'vulnerability' or 'security'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)327-349
    JournalSouth Asia-Journal of South Asia Studies
    Volume30
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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