Infrastructure Collapse, India

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Collapsing bridges (again and again), this time a flyover under construction in Kolkata (Calcutta). “India bridge collapse: Kolkata rescue efforts under way,” “India bridge collapse: At least 23 killed in Kolkata,” “Kolkata overpass collapse kills 24; rescuers dig for survivors,” “India Kolkata flyover collapse: At least 20 dead,” and it goes on.

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Wildlife’s infrastructure nightmare

Dear Friends,

I’m very honored and excited to be invited as a guest blogger on Installing (Social) Order and am hoping I can make some interesting and valuable contributions. And I start here on the issue of infrastructure, but from a completely different vantage point – that of wilderness and wildlife. One on my key interests going back more than 2 decades is wildlife conservation in South Asia, the part of the planet I belong to and have been living in since I was born. As part of my work with the environmental NGO Kalpavriksh, I have been editing a newsletter on wildlife for over 18 years now. It is called the Protected Area Update, and one issue that comes up repeatedly is the impact on wildlife, wilderness and the environment on account of our relentless drive to create more and more and more ‘infrastructure’. It is something I keep reporting and commenting on and here is one small editorial I wrote for the February 2012 issue of the newsletter. It’s a little old if one goes by the date, but the concerns on the ground today are just as real if not actually more acute. The piece is also a little India specific, but I think it captures the challenges and that is why I’m sharing it here.

And here’s where you can access the entire 24 page newsletter in case you are interested in reading the specific newsletter or the entire set check Protected Area Update – 2012

WILDLIFE’S INFRASTRUCTURE NIGHTMARE

(Editorial, Protected Area Update Vol. XVIII, No. 1, February 2012)

More roads that penetrate deeper, railway lines that connect better and faster, dam projects for power and irrigation, coal mining for more electricity, high-tension power lines to evacuate that electricity…. This is one side of India’s infrastructure and constantly lauded growth story.

There is another side to that very story which reads something like the following: Roads that cut through rich forests, railways lines that regularly kill elephants, dam projects that drown pristine forests and wildlife habitats, coal mining that rips apart tiger corridors, high tension lines that kill elephants in Orissa and flamingoes in Gujarat…

From the Nallamalla forests of Andhra Pradesh to the valley of the Alaknanda in Uttarakhand; from the elephant forests of Orissa to the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – the story is the same – what is unfolding is nothing short of a nightmare for India’s wildlife. The infrastructure for our automobiles, power and lifestyles is leaving nothing of the natural infrastructure that the wild denizens need. As we travel faster, longer, and deeper and as the GDP becomes the only mantra, the elephants, the tigers, the leopards and even the flamingoes are getting hemmed in more and more with every passing day.

The fate of the flamingoes in Gujarat highlights this starkly. Their only option on being disturbed at night by vehicular noise in the Great Rann was to fly into high-tension wires hanging above and get charred instantly. Between the vehicle and the wire, India’s beleaguered wildlife is getting sandwiched and slaughtered like never before.

One ‘eco’ – the economic is soaring as everything ecologic is being torn to shreds. The tragic irony is that the same system sells to us and to the world the prowling tiger, the gamboling elephant, the soaring birds and, yes, the dancing tribal as ‘Incredible India’. We at the PA Update are part of a small crowd that’s watching on with incredulity. And with despair.

Pankaj Sekhsaria: Guest Blogger

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Pankaj Sekhsaria (doctoral candidate from Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies) will join us for the next month on the blog. You might recall mention of research on jugaad, but Pankaj’s work is so much more than that. If you review the academia.edu page, then you’ll see a substantial amount more about jugaad, including an engaging and well-read newspaper piece about the topic,  along with a piece in Current Science, India’s leading science journal, and there is also a chapter is an edited volume that is worth the read. Pankaj is also author of The Last Wave, a novel that is engrossing — I’m learning — and that was well-received on the topic of deforestation and, I think, finding meaning in a world ravened by capitalism’s insufferable appetite.

This is truly a joy to welcome Pankaj to the blog. Please join me in welcoming our guest.

Jugaad, Siqizai, Bricolage

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New article about jugaad, which we’ve discussed here a bit, by Pankaj Sekhsaria (a graduate student at Maastricht’s Department of Technology and Society) is available on academia.edu (note: if you click the link, you’ll find the paper starts on page 21 of the larger PDF file — the paper is short and to the point).

On Revanchist Policy and Water Infrastructure

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In “Water Wars in Mumbai,” a book chapter in Infrastructural Lives, we learn an important lesson about infrastructure as a material-social entanglement, in particular, in relation to the poor: infrastructure — or the lack-thereof — can be used to subjugate the poor — thus, reproducing their impoverished state — but infrastructure also, with rare exception, binds the poor to the non-poor. 

This lesson dovetails nicely with Simone’s insights about postcolonial urban environment, and speaks to the fecundity of the chapters housed in the edited volume Infrastructural Lives. Continue reading

Ship Breaking in Bangladesh

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Worth seeing: The Ship Breakers. Ships, at the ends of their lives, are rammed into the beach, thusly beaching these “end of life” ships onto the shores of ship-breaking yards of Bangladesh, India, and a few other states. The work is dangerous and the environmental consequences are visually obvious. There are other examples here, here, and especially this piece in the Atlantic here.