Land-Use/Land Cover Change and Livelihoods Amidst Landslides – Survival and Vulnerabilities in Kurseong, India

Authors: Samayita Bandyopadhyay*, Oklahoma State University
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Hazards and Vulnerability, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: land-use land cover change, land change science, political ecology, vulnerability, landslide disaster
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Land-use/land-cover changes (LULCC) such as agricultural expansion, expansion of settlements, and urbanization are necessary to support human habitation and livelihoods. However, such changes may also have unprecedented impacts on the environment (e.g., through deforestation, land degradation, etc.), which in turn have negative consequences on the wellbeing of human societies. This study is based in Kurseong, a district subdivision in the eastern Himalayan Mountains in India, where large-scale deforestation and agricultural expansion began during the 1850s under the British colonial regime with the establishment and growth of tea plantations. In Independent India (since 1947), with changing government regimes, market economies, and a growing population, such LULCCs have intensified. Also, situated in the Himalayan Mountains, Kurseong suffers from recurrent landslide disasters. In recent years, people’s vulnerability to landslides have increased manifold. In this context, my research explores the role of LULCC in increasing the threat of landslides in Kurseong. Further, it explores the underlying drivers of LULCC as they impact local people’s disaster vulnerability. This coupled human-environment study uses an integrated Land Change Science and Political Ecology framework, and employs a mix of remote sensing analyses and qualitative methods of research. I find the pattern of LULCC in Kurseong since the 2000s using high-resolution LISS-IV images. Then, through key-informant interviews, community meetings and extensive household surveys in three tea plantations and two rural areas in the study area, I find both common and highly contextual socio-economic and political drivers of vulnerability and resilience.

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