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Diamond in the Rough: Disaster Justice in Surat, India
  • Robert R.M. Verchick, Loyola University New Orleans

Perhaps no country in the world is as vulnerable on so many fronts to climate change as India. With 7000 kilometers of coastline, the vast Himalayan glaciers, and nearly 70 million hectares of forests, India is especially vulnerable to warmer temperatures, erratic precipitation, higher seas, and swifter storms. Then there are India’s cities, where all of these trends threaten public health and safety on a grand scale—portending heat waves, drought, thicker smog, coastal storms, and blown-out sewers. Yet, my travels on the subcontinent revealed glints of hope, cities thrown on the ropes by climate change, but effectively fighting back. One is Surat—India’s bustling, no-nonsense city, near the Arabian Sea. There I spoke with city officials, business leaders, and public health experts. I perused the aeration basins of a water treatment plant, climbed the floodgates of a major river embankment, and threaded my way through a township built to replace a flood-prone slum. I even toured a diamond-polishing facility that turns out to be very relevant to this climate story. In sum, Surat is making impressive progress that other cities in the developing world can surely learn from. While the city seems poised for prosperity, its fortune depends on its ability to improve flood control, protect public health, and expand access to safe housing. Success in Surat requires disaster justice. Before entering the city, we will first examine the threat posed by climate change in the Global South and its relationship to disaster, along the way sorting out a series of justice-oriented concerns related to climate, disaster, and the environment. Because disaster justice emphasizes the role of unequal vulnerabilities among social groups, we will next consider the relationship between such social vulnerabilities and the concept of justice. We will see what other cities in the world might learn from India’s Diamond Capital.
  • climate resilience,
  • disaster,
  • environmental justice,
  • india
Publication Date
Citation Information
Robert R.M. Verchick. "Diamond in the Rough: Disaster Justice in Surat, India" ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING E: NATURE AND SPACE (2018)
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