Tag: water management

At the Edge of Land and Water: Navigating sea level change in Chennai

It was 8am in Ennore, a coastal region at the northern-most tip of the city of Chennai and home to artisanal fishers who have traditionally lived along the shores of the Bay of Bengal.  I had recently started my fieldwork on property relations at coastal spaces around Chennai there. The sun was out, the fishers were busy sorting through the catch of the day, and the smoke from the factories around made everything look hazy. My neighbor and long-time Ennore resident, Kumar uncle, decided to introduce me to fishers he knew at Periyakuppam, a fishing village in the area. We met the fishers and as we stood facing the sea, I asked them about the history of the village and changes in the landscape over time. In response, they pointed at the sea and said, “Look! Do you see the sand there, the sea water extended till that point until last week, but it has receded further now…come again next month and see what we’re talking about!” Just a few minutes later, they shifted their gaze to the left and asked, “Can you see those ships in the distance? That is where the port is. They built it for the ships bringing coal to the power plant. They put in sea-walls around there…” and once again, shifting their gaze towards the shore and the sea they said, “Look there, half the land in that village is now under water; it’s because of those stones from the sea-walls over there.” (read more...)

Together in Crisis: the Politics of Day Zero in Cape Town

Every morning before heading in to work, Lusanda weaves his way through shacks and sandy puddles, bucket in hand. The communal tap he uses is some fifty meters away. It’s relatively close, compared to some other settlements. “The problem is that tap there,” he explains pointing off in the distance, “If the tap is open there, this one will shut down, so I’ll have to wait for those ones to finish and fill up. That’s why all the time I keep my bucket full.” It is especially bad on Saturdays, when everyone is doing their laundry, so he strategically times the trip. Lusanda makes this journey twice every day, filling up a twenty-liter bucket, which he shares with his girlfriend. A couple of liters here for washing, a couple there for cooking and cleaning, all judiciously scooped from the bucket. (read more...)

Living with Water Part II: A Tour of New Orleans’ Resilience District

This post is the second in a two-part series on water management in New Orleans. Read part one here. By adapting our city to our natural environment and the risks of climate change, we can create opportunities for all New Orleanians to thrive. – From Resilient New Orleans (2015: 4) “The Gentilly Resilience District will be a model for how other neighborhoods in New Orleans, across the region, and across the country, can adapt to thrive in a changing environment,” Derek reads aloud. A fellow with the Rockefeller Foundations 100 Resilient Cities, he explains to me the vital role the Urban Water Plan plays in the Resilient New Orleans initiative. Derek was trained in Urban Planning, and describes himself as an “ethnography sympathizer.” He had offered to take me on a tour of the Gentilly Resilience District, a model city space for the application of Urban Water Plan designs and community engagement. We hop in the city truck with New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) painted on the side and headed out. Our first stop was the London Avenue Canal memorial garden, where a local nonprofit, levees.org, had commemorated the site of the flood wall breach and levee failure during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A map of the U.S. Army Corps Federal Levee System breaches is captioned by an indictment of their planning and preparedness: “The London Avenue Canal was Destined to Fail.” The high walls blocking access and visibility to the canal seem to simultaneously serve as a way to hide the pending threat of the water, while also alluding to its inevitability. In 2016, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition awarded the city $141.3 million to implement the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan in the neighborhood district of Gentilly, requiring that 80 percent of the people impacted by the project fall under lower middle income levels (LMI). (read more...)

Living with Water in New Orleans

This post is the first in a two-part series on water management in New Orleans. In September 2013, just days after the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans officials unveiled a new approach to water management in the city: the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. After centuries engineering ways to exclude water from the city (through levees, flood walls, and drainage pumps), city officials now hoped to reintegrate water into the landscape. In building new ways of “living with water,” the authors of the plan hoped to create a more sustainable New Orleans—especially in the face of growing threats from climate change. But with many neighborhoods still rebounding from Hurricane Katrina, residents questioned what these restoration projects might mean for their communities. The story of water management in New Orleans is entangled with issues of race and class, infrastructure and development, and the politics of sustainability—issues that, as recent flooding in Baton Rouge remind us, are not going away. Mud, mud, mud… In 1819, Benjamin Latrobe, architect of New Orleans’s first waterworks, wrote in his journal: “mud, mud, mud… This is a floating city, floating below the surface of the water on a bed of mud.” (read more...)