Discursive Dissonance in Socioecological Theatre

  • Aditya Ghosh
Part of the Advances in Asian Human-Environmental Research book series (AAHER)


Policies and governance of sustainability and adaptation in the Indian Sundarbans are deeply entrenched in the discursive conflicts between various narratives emanating from global, national and local actors, respectively. The local residents perceive everyday disasters and erosion as their biggest threats followed by salinisation of soil. While forced outmigration is often the only autonomous adaptation option, scouts of human trafficking and child labour exploit the vulnerability of the disaster-fatigued. The state claims embankments to be the only instrument of protection and governance, which also designate their authority over the region. Multiple agencies with their respective mandates of control over the region and the resulting power struggles create deep divisions in the sustainability and adaptation governance. For example, approaches based on co-benefits and benefit sharing, have failed to cater to the local needs. Experts – comprising ecologists and geomorphologists – construct the region differently. The former focuses on the values of the ecosystem without being able to devise a system of sharing the benefits with the local people. The latter describes the region as an unstable, immature and active delta unfit for human habitation. Economists calculate values of the ecosystem services and products offered by the Sundarbans but fail to deliberate upon or devise a mechanism of sharing these benefits. Conservationists feel that the fragile balance of life-forms and biodiversity in the Sundarbans are critically endangered, which might eventually jeopardise human existence itself. The discourse of both the expert and the policy actors shifts the burden and onus of adaptation to the self-organising capacities of the local residents. While rehabilitation, livelihood security, built and human capital remain absent, the locals are not only expected to cope with hazards autonomously but also relinquish their living spaces to avoid future disasters. These multiple perceived realities make sustainability and climate governance in the Sundarbans a staggering intellectual and policy challenge.


Disaster Coping Discourses Migration Co-benefits MGNREGA Embankment Eco-tourism Aspiration 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Aditya Ghosh
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability ResearchLeuphana University of LüneburgLüneburg, Lower SaxonyGermany

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