This chapter examines the manner in which a disaster-affected population of artisanal fishers relocated inland to new sites following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 experienced and adapted to problems of water quality, scarcity, sanitation, and drainage. While numerous studies of conflicts over water tend to focus on issues of equitable access (see Anand, 2011), this chapter seeks to link the problem to the contested priorities driving land and resource use and access. I show how inland relocation negatively impacted households, making it harder to sustain livelihoods due to distance from the coast, while imposing new costs including that of commodified and scarce water, locational deficiencies, and the structural weaknesses of new housing. Placed in a historical context, the problem of water can be seen as an aspect of the long-term problem of ecologically unequal exchange pitting local artisanal fisher communities against an aggressively state-supported commercial fishery sector. The continuity I seek to hone in on is the pattern of imposing costs on fishers while enabling the alienation and privatization of coastal resources. Taking water not only as a vital substance presenting questions of access and quality but also as a problem of drainage and effluence enables a fuller consideration of how the unequal distribution of costs on poorer populations became legitimized in the name of recovery. At the same time, the chapter also highlights the manner in which fishers refused to remain docile subjects of power and used their agency and autonomy in adapting to and sometimes refusing the terms of relocation.
Swamy, R. (2020), "The Cost of Relocation: Water and Fishers in Post-Tsunami Nagapattinam, South India
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