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Ohdedar, Birsha (2024) 'Law, Colonial-Capitalist Floods, and the Production of Injustices in Eastern India: Insights for Climate Adaptation.' Transnational Environmental Law. (Forthcoming)

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Floods are not merely ‘natural’ disasters; rather, they emerge as socio-natural phenomena shaped by political, social, and economic processes. Law plays a pivotal role in producing and sustaining these processes and contributes to the creation of unjust environments. Drawing on political ecology and environmental history, this article analyzes the role of law and its interactions with colonialism and capitalism in the Damodar river valley in Eastern India. The Damodar river valley is an intensely engineered and hazardous region, a site of multiple interventions and developmental and ecological experiments for over a century. Colonial and post-colonial legacies have left a lasting imprint on legal, policy, and institutional frameworks, establishing a path-dependent trajectory for addressing future climate change adaptation challenges. While focusing on a specific case study, the article's approach and findings have broader significance, especially in the context of climate adaptation. The central argument underscores the need to understand the political and legal dimensions of flooding, and reinforces the need for a shift beyond incremental adjustments that do not tackle the underlying structures that produce the injustices associated with floods. It highlights the importance of ‘transformative adaptation’ approaches that address the root causes of climate-related disasters, such as restructuring power relations between actors, reconfiguring governance structures, and scrutinizing ideologies that mediate how water is used and distributed.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Colonialism, Political ecology, Water grabbing, Climate adaptation, Environmental justice, Damodar river
SOAS Departments & Centres: School Research Centres > Law, Environment and Development Centre
Departments and Subunits > School of Law
ISSN: 20471025
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 11 May 2024 08:46

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