When hydrosociality encounters sediments: Transformed lives and livelihoods in the lower basin of the Ganges River

Abstract : The hydrosocial cycle is a central analytical framework in political ecological approaches to water. It helps foreground multiple and subtle interactions between water and society, culture and politics. However, to date it has dealt little with matters other than water flows. In river contexts, biotic and abiotic components play critical roles in the way people engage with and make a living out of rivers, beyond water. This article aims to advance the hydrosocial framework with a deeper consideration of the materiality of rivers. To initiate this approach, the focus is here on sediments. Lives and livelihoods connected to river sediments remain both officially and academically under-explored. This certainly applies to the context of the Lower Ganges basin whose active channels transport huge loads of sediments mainly originating from the Himalayan slopes. Building upon an environmental history perspective and drawing on three spatially nested cases in West Bengal, India, the paper analyses instances of water-sediment-society interactions. The general case study presents colonial state interventions in the Lower Ganges basin waterscapes. The second case study zooms the focus on the 2 km long Farakka Barrage. These explorations reveal how an ‘imported’ conceptual land-water divide infused those interventions, leading to unforeseen effects on riverine lives and livelihoods. Focusing on Hamidpur char, situated few kilometres upstream of the barrage, the third case study recounts the contemporary efforts of local communities to obtain revision of administrative decisions unable to deal with ‘muddyscapes’. Finally, the paper engages with recent debates on the concept of hybridity in land-water nexus to reflect on the specific meaning and role of sediments.
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Submitted on : Monday, April 29, 2019 - 11:28:10 AM
Last modification on : Monday, August 26, 2019 - 3:42:02 PM

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Flore Lafaye de Micheaux, Jenia Mukherjee, Christian Kull. When hydrosociality encounters sediments: Transformed lives and livelihoods in the lower basin of the Ganges River. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, SAGE Publishing, 2018, 1 (4), pp.641-663. ⟨10.1177/2514848618813768⟩. ⟨hal-02113879⟩

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