Waterworn. Climate Change Resonance in the Shivalik Hills of North India
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This dissertation aims to explore the idea of climate change as it appeared amongst villagers in the rural Shivalik hills of North India. I traced the discourse behind the practices of diverse local, regional and global development policies as I saw them materializing in the village, and found what appeared to be an ‘awareness campaign’ on climate change. In the village of Rani Mājri, people live in an area of North India that is defined by the central government as ‘fragile’ and ‘ecologically sensitive’. Situated below the Himalayan mountains and above the Indo-Gangetic plains, the area is expected to be seriously affected by climate change and global warming though more erratic monsoon rainfall, erosion, siltation and landslides. Consequently, the hill village population have over time become subjected to various governmental schemes and projects aiming to both develop the people and conserve the environment, alongside facilitating for the mitigation of climate change.
I argued that this ‘campaign’ became entwined with existing discourses on modernity and environmentalism, so that information on climate change in Rani Mājri became filtrated through a new discourse on climate change awareness.
The campaigns directed at developing, modernizing and educating the villagers on issues of climate and environment, thus appeared poorly designed to register that the ‘awareness’ the they wanted to propagate, was already there. Central for my analysis was the social aspects of water, how it was shared and distributed. As a central element in shaping both social and ecological landscapes, people’s relationship with water was explicitly related to notions of power, cosmology and ‘progress’. Water, by controlling it or altering its course, thus affected how people in the village dealt with the environmental and social changes that they perceived around them. This became especially salient through the presence of a state ‘watershed management project’ I followed, and its associated practices. The focus on water also revealed an intimate relationship between humans, deities and the environment in which they dwell, and how this relationship also affected the idea of climate change in Rani Mājri.