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Clumsy Solutions For Sustainability In The Disaster Prone Himalayan Region Of Kurseong, Darjeeling, India

Authors: Samayita Bandyopadhyay*, Oklahoma State University
Topics: Environment, Hazards and Vulnerability, Mountain Environments
Keywords: clumsy solutions, sustainability, environmental hazards
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The people in Kurseong, a subdivision of the Darjeeling Himalayas in eastern India, are multidimensionally vulnerable to environmental, social, economic and political stressors. Environmentally, the region is prone to both sudden disaster events such as landslides, floods, and earthquakes; as well as to the long-term impacts of climate change. Traditionally, the two major workforce of this region comprise of tea plantation workers and smallholder farmers, most of whom have very little economic capital to cope with a disaster. Moreover, political conflicts (namely, the Gorkhaland conflict) occasionally begets violence, riots and strikes that further exacerbates their access to resources. Yet, within this volatile space and time, the local people adapt through small scale rudimentary practices to help keep the rural environment sustainable. Some of their methods involve household vegetable gardens in small spaces, setting up roadside trash bins in the absence of good infrastructure of waste-carrying drains, and afforestation measures by school children, plantation workers and smallholders. The latter action has resulted in a marked increase in forest cover from 1988 to 2019. A clumsier solution by economically vulnerable families involve taking up odd jobs or temporary work in the construction sector, that although do not help the environment, benefits the families economically, reducing their vulnerabilities. This paper will present results from Remote Sensing Land Cover Change Analyses between 1988-2019 and 146 household surveys to explain how these clumsy solutions have shaped sustainability in Kurseong.

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