Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Link Pack #14: Kerala, poverty pathways, and coping strategies

Listening: In the Field, a promising development podcast from India (do check them out in case you haven't already) open their second season with a great episode on Kerala - the poster child of development in India and where it is today. Includes discussions on

  • how Kerala's development trajectory has meant different things for men and women (differences in expectations, women still seen as conduits of 'economic outflows' despite being key sources of remittances - think Malayalee nurses).   
  • the 2018 floods and whether Kerala's development has come at the cost of its environmental security. 
  • future development pathways for Kerala (a knowledge economy? but what of changing aspirations?)
Reading: There is a new special issue in Environment and Development Economics which has a series of papers examining the links between poverty and climate change. In the introduction to the special issue, Hallegatte et al. (open access) highlight how climate change can push people into poverty (e.g. through direct losses such as floods eroding assets) and can also block people escaping poverty (e.g. through a drought undermining farm incomes). We have known these linkages for some time now but given the scale of the data represented in the papers and the current 'moment of opportunity' climate change research is witnessing, makes reiterating some of these findings. I found particularly interesting, Angelsen & Dokken's paper examining role of environmental income (income from products extracted from non-cultivated (wild) areas) in coping with shocks. They find:
"Among the income-generating coping strategies, extracting more environmental resources ranks second to seeking wage labor. The poorest in dry regions also experience the highest forest loss, undermining the opportunities to to cope with future climate shocks." Angelsen, A. & Dokken, T. (2018:257).
What this means is that while natural resource extraction is detrimental to dealing with climate shocks, poor people continue to do so because it generates income. Sobering and something we continuously see whether in competitive groundwater extraction across South India, or the degradation of pasturelands in dryland areas. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

New Project: Recovery with Dignity

I'm starting a new project called 'Recovery with Dignity' with a great set of researchers at University of East Anglia and IIHS. We're examining processes and impacts of representation and memorialisation in post-disaster recovery processes, with case studies in Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As the project takes shape, the team is thinking and writing about post-disaster representation (who represents whom and what, when and why) and how perhaps pluralising representation can make it more inclusive.

We're building on previous experiences in Odisha and Tamil Nadu where we found that short-term humanitarian assistance tends to overlook longer-term development impacts. In Chennai for example, we found relocation and resettlement are common 'tools' of disaster recovery but have longer-term social, economic, and intangible impacts on resettled lives and livelihoods. They also forefront multiple agendas - a removal of slums in the city, the thrust to vacate expensive real estate, the imperatives of reducing peoples' hazard exposure, and in all of this, the daily lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations.

Rising high, sinking low. Relocated households often find themselves in multi-floor housing like those
pictured above, very different from the spaces of communal living they come from. Public spaces and parks,
though planed for, are flooded because the buildings stood on low-lying marshlands. Many reported
safety issues because in a colony of resettelers, there is no 'community' let alone cohesion.
Semencherry, Chennai 2017. 

Ten years on. The coast along Tamil Nadu's capital is littered with broken boats, remains of old huts.
Chennai 2017

In the Recovery with Dignity project we aim to use creative methodological approaches to capture representation and memorialisation which I am particularly looking forward to. Watch this space for updates on the project and fieldwork!