Present absences, future connections: claims for connectivity on a large river island in Northeast India
Tom Boyd (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores ethical reflections concerning prospective large infrastructure projects on a large river island in Northeast India, elucidating the attached hopes and fears bundled up within these imagined water futures for those living beside the river.
Paper long abstract:
Rivers offer both boons and dangers. For those that live on the large rural river island of Majuli in Northeast India, dramatic variations in seasonal water levels provide distinct challenges and opportunities. This includes the flows by which people and goods move in and out from the island. Many Majuli residents have long argued that poor access to healthcare and few employment opportunities on the island necessitate new and improved infrastructure to increase connectivity with nearby regional hubs. Conversations concerning these prospective infrastructure projects, namely a new road bridge, fostered ethical reflections of the both desired and undesired flows that would be smoothened through the replacement of the present (slower and inconsistent) ferry service. Emergency medical treatment might be more easily sort, but might this too make it easier for thieves to come and go without detection? Jobs in nearby towns might become more easily accessible, but might the peaceful character of the place be lost? In this way, these deliberations would frequently be couched within considerations of well-being, risk, and potential future prosperity. Based on ethnographic research, this paper explores how a focus on ethical reflections in conversations concerning prospective large infrastructure projects on the river draws out the transformative connections and disconnections they might facilitate. In so doing, it helps to elucidate the hopes and fears bundled up within imagined future life trajectories, or water futures, for those living beside the river.
Water futures: making a living in times of environmental uncertainty