Disaster, Development, and Water: The Reconstruction and (Re)Fabrication of Hazardous Waterscapes in Post-tsunami India

  • Luke JuranEmail author


The 2004 Asian tsunami devastated the East coast of India, setting in motion the country’s largest reconstruction project. Entire villages had to be rebuilt, including water infrastructure. This paper examines the outcomes of water sector reconstruction across 14 villages that were rebuilt in Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu, and Karaikal District, Puducherry. The objective is to critique post-tsunami reconstruction through the lens of ‘water’. The focus is on water quality and methods to cope with poor water quality, but ancillary issues of access, quantity, and pressure are also explored. Household (n = 74) and key informant interviews (n = 66), focus group discussions (n = 14), water quality tests (n = 378), and photographs are used to construct a socio-geographical narrative and a visual ethnography of the post-disaster built environments. A unifying theme is that the hazardous pre-disaster context was essentially refabricated through reconstruction processes to fashion hazardous waterscapes of manmade, engineered proportions—an outcome mirroring a ‘disaster after the disaster.’ Moreover, the ability of residents to manage water-related hazards is limited, because residents have been dealt waterscapes over which they command little power. Many factors exist outside residents’ bounds of influence, permitting few opportunities to surmount, let alone subvert, the hazardous waterscapes. Thus, residents are forced to operate within a narrow band of functional possibilities. The result is not only constrained agency, but that subjects are driven to acclimate, acculturate, and ultimately submit to the waterscapes they inhabit.


Reconstruction Water quality Water access Built environment Visual ethnography Qualitative geography 



The author greatly thanks the research participants in Nagapattinam and Karaikal, without whom this research would not be possible. The author also thanks Annie George, BEDROC, Rajagopal Chidambaram, E. Nagarajan, N. Kalyani, and Breeanna Prince for logistical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Virginia Water Resources Research CenterVirginia TechBlacksburgUS

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