Floods are not (just) natural

Dec 2012

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From natural to socio-natural

It is important to reframe natural hazards as a socio-natural process, and to re-think flood strategy beyond resilience and adaptation. For critical social scientists and activists, this re-orientation means working through how particular uses of the Indus perpetuate unequal social relations. We must move away from policies geared towards dominating or protecting ourselves from the Indus—a view found in state documents and in the everyday common sense language we use to describe and explain flooding.

Instead, we must promote a creative and more holistic set of policies that acknowledge the interaction between the social and the natural, and modify the way we relate to the Indus. For example, examining and re-thinking how physical access to water, land rights and water rights interact in concrete situations could help us understand how to construct more equal agrarian social relations, which could in turn distribute the damage of floods more evenly and horizontally across space and vertically between economic classes.

Understanding hazards as internally generated through larger socio-ecological processes means there is no normality or natural equilibrium for society to return to. There is only a future path to chart.

Majed Akhter is working towards his PhD in Geography at the University of Arizona. His thesis analyses the politics of the Indus River from a historical perspective.

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