USR 3330 "Savoirs et Mondes Indiens" Working papers series n°8
Drawing on original research produced in the framework of the FP7 research project “Chance2Sustain” (www.chance2sustain.eu), this Working Paper provides an overview of key water and climate change issues in Chennai, India and analyses on-going challenges for directing governance towards sustainability principles. These issues take on special significance in Chennai, which has the lowest per capita availability of water among India’s large cities and where the city’s geographical location and groundwater depletion have made it susceptible to flooding and seawater infiltration, respectively. To examine these issues, attention is given to the fragmented institutional arrangements in place for governing water, as well as to the norms that underpin the dominant technoscientific discourse in terms of solutions (e.g., desalination plants, interstate pipelines), which tend to marginalize alternative voices. In order to zoom in on the key water issues, including climate-related water vulnerabilities, research focused in particular on one area, the “IT Corridor” in the city’s southern periphery, a mega project built to enhance economic growth by attracting new investments in the IT industry. The state government’s special policy for this zone, i.e., 24/7 water supply and efficient sewerage infrastructures, aims to reassure potential investors but meanwhile threatens to deepen already existing social and spatial inequalities in access to basic services. Moreover, the IT Corridor mega project increases risks for the fragile coastal ecosystem, including the Pallikaranai Marshland, which is already under threat from encroachments, garbage disposal and the dumping of untreated sewerage. The research indicates a crucial lack of awareness about the risks related to climate change among decision-makers, planners and residents. It concludes that the fragmented governance structure and lack of integrated analyses of hazards and socioeconomic vulnerabilities are the primary causes of water-related deficiencies in Chennai.