Development and Change in India: Workshop at Essex, 26th June 2013

Schoolboy in Ahmednagar district, India. Photo: Zareen P. Bharucha

The great Indian Growth Story is one of the most exciting of our times.  Socioeconomic change is altering the lives of 1.2 billion people. For communities who farm, fish, hunt or forage for a living, development brings poverty-alleviation, but also displacement, vulnerability, violence and loss. How do communities adapt and navigate the complex terrain of ‘development-induced change’?  To address these issues, the Essex Sustainability Institute is collaborating with researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi on a series of research workshops. We invite you to take part in this exciting new collaboration, and bring your expertise to bear on the new research questions which will present themselves! Papers will be followed by round-table discussion and the event will be followed by dinner, courtesy of the Essex Sustainability Institute.

The event is free, but places are limited. Registration is required for both the event and dinner thereafter. To register, click here. For further information, please email: 

Facilitators: Prof. Steffen Boehm and Dr. Zareen P. Bharucha


Prof. Amita Singh, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University.Assessing development through the Ecosystem Well-being Index.This paper suggests that unless development policy is directed around the conservation and protection of ecosystems rather than protecting a few selected species,or diverting huge land areas into infrastructural projects , progress may neither be sustainable nor peaceful. Measures of progress towards development play an important role in measuring what counts as development and how much progress is being made. The Ecosystem Well-being Index (EWI) is a relevant and culturally-acceptable mode of evaluating progress towards development.  To explain its relevance, the paper analyzes land acquisition processes in India.

Prof. Sachidanand Sinha, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Development and Displacement of Land-based communities: The tribal population of Central India.

Projects such as mining, the constrution of new townships, urbanization and the development of major infrastructure projects has led to massive land acquisition during the last two decades in India. This paper will examine the magnitude of displacements of the agrarian populations in general and tribes in particular. It will examine the processes of land acquisition of the forest-based communities in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and the consequences it may have with respect to their livelihoods and survival.

Prof. Fiona Marshall, Science, Technology & Policy Research Unit and STEPS Centre, University of Sussex
Living on the edge: Perspectives on Sustainability in Peri-Urban India. 
As BRICS countries forge new development pathways, the pace and nature of growth in peri-urban spaces is unprecedented. Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation inevitably brings pro-poor benefits, generating jobs and resources that contribute to overall well-being. However the benefits remain very unevenly distributed and many of the costs to the environment and to human well-being remain little understood and under reported. This paper discusses a series of interdisciplinary research and policy engagement initiatives in India, which explored these issues. We have examined how a failure to address these apparently transitory issues results in a plethora of missed opportunities to benefit from rural-urban synergies, for example in waste management and provision of affordable and nutritious fresh food produce. Crucially, there is much to be learnt from peri-urban communities about adaptation in rapidly changing environments, which rarely contributes to the formal policy and planning making processes. Through empirical case studies we are currently exploring possibilities for a more positive relationship between the city and its periphery.

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Seminar: Wellbeing and Poverty in Marginalised Communities in India and Zambia

The Essex Sustainability Institute  is hosting  a new seminar series, Sustainability Contested, at the Wivenhoe Park campus. The seminars are open to staff, students and members of the public. The next seminar in the series will be held on the 26th of October 2012, in room 5S.4.11, 12:30 – 14:00 (bring your lunch). All are welcome, and attendance is free! Please spread the word! If you would like to meet the speakers on the day, please email Zareen Bharucha, at zpbhar (at) More on the first seminar below.

Title: Wellbeing and Poverty in Marginalised Communities: Zambia and India compared 

Abstract: This paper presents initial findings from ongoing interdisciplinary research into subjective and objective dimensions of wellbeing in two marginalised communities, one in India and one in Zambia.  It begins by introducing the research and the model of wellbeing it has developed.  It then describes the locations and some basic similarities and differences between them. Initial results are then presented. These give pause for thought to anyone who maintains that wellbeing is a purely individual or psychological matter.  Preliminary though the findings are, they clearly point to the fact that economics and politics are critical to people’s ability to achieve wellbeing.  This is shown both in the salience of structural differences such as wealth and gender/marital status in predicting levels of inner wellbeing, and in the importance of the ‘enabling environment’: policy and polity, security and insecurity.

Sarah White is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath and Director of Wellbeing and Poverty Pathways, funded by ESRC/DFID, 2010-2013 ( She is a sociologist of international development, who has worked previously on gender, race, child rights and religion, mainly in the context of Bangladesh.

Wastewater-fed aquaculture in the East Kolkata Wetlands, India: anachronism or archetype for resilient ecocultures?

Abstract: Wastewater-fed aquaculture is generally in decline. The 12,500 ha East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) Ramsar site in peri-urban Kolkata, India, is the only large-scale formal system still operating and appears to demonstrate a high degree of resilience. This paper identifies aspects of wastewater-fed aquaculture in the EKW that contribute to its sustained operation. The Driving Forces, Pressures, State, Impact, Response (DPSIR) framework was used to structure the assessment. Resilience within the EKW can be attributed to the scale of operation, adaptive production strategies that optimise resource utilisation while minimising risks, self-organisation among stakeholders and timely legislation and institutional interventions to preserve the natural character of the wetlands. The introduction of externalising technologies, erosion of social capital and loss of traditional ecological knowledge threaten to undermine this resilience. Outcomes from this analysis should inform future management of the EKW to ensure that resilience is retained and enhanced.

Citation: Bunting S., Pretty J. and Edwards P. 2010. Wastewater-fed aquaculture in the East Kolkata Wetlands, India: anachronism or archetype for resilient ecocultures? Reviews in Aquaculture 2(3): 138-153.

View text here.

Adaptability amongst the Bajau, Indonesia

Bajau village, Sampela, Kaledupa Island, Indonesia. Photo: Julian Clifton

Background: This case study is centered on the Bajau, the most widely dispersed maritime ethnic group within south-east Asia. The Bajau are found across Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia and, whilst linguistic and other differences are present, certain common characteristics are usually found. One of these is the high dependence on marine resources for food, fuel and building materials, as the Bajau commonly live in ‘stilt villages’ erected on wood, stone or dead coral foundations extending across the reef flat. Furthermore, fish and other marine products represent an essential component of Bajau diets and trading systems, whilst the collection of marine resources influences daily social practices and religious observances. There is, therefore, a uniquely close affinity with the sea in everyday life which permeates every Bajau community. This has been showcased in high profile media events including the BBC’s recent ‘Human Planet’ documentary. It is this affinity which led me to address aspects of Bajau life from the ‘Ecocultures’ perspective and underline the increasing scale and complexity of political, economic and environmental issues facing this society which has hitherto insulated and marginalised itself from mainstream cultures. However, change is an integral part of daily life in maritime communities such as the Bajau and they have proved remarkably resilient to past stresses, thus we should not make the error of believing that change in itself is detrimental to Bajau society. In fact, adaptability may yet prove to be the strongest asset possessed by this unique and fascinating group of people.

Julian Clifton

About the author: 

Julian Clifton gained his PhD in Geography in 1997 from the University of Liverpool and spent ten years teaching at the University of Portsmouth. In 2007, he moved to Perth and is Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. Dr. Clifton’s academic research has always focused upon south-east Asia, with specific reference to marine resource management, conservation and planning. These reflect his interests in understanding the role played by local communities in marine resource management and the implications of wider conservation policies on communities’ ability to develop sustainable livelihoods. It is often the case that the broader conservation agenda experiences many points of conflict when set against the needs and requirements of local resource users, and his interests focus upon the processes and outcomes of these conflicts.

Further Publications: 


  • Clifton, J., Majors, C. (2012). Culture, conservation and conflict: perspectives on marine protection amongst the Bajau of south-east Asia. Society and Natural Resources 25(7), 716-725.
  • Clifton, J., Etienne, M., Barnes, D.K.A., Barnes, R.S.K., Suggett, D.J., Smith, D.J. (2012). Marine conservation policy in the Seychelles: current constraints and prospects for improvement. Marine Policy 36, 823-831.
  • Clifton, J. (2011). The Wakatobi National Park – governance analysis. In: Governing Marine Protected Areas: getting the balance right – Volume 2, eds. P.J.S. Jones, W. Qiu and E.M. De Santo. Technical Report to Marine & Coastal Ecosystems Branch, UNEP, Nairobi. Published online at
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Achieving congruence between conservation and community: the Bajau ethnic group and marine management within the Wakatobi and south-east Asia. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.171-192. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J. (2010). Marine protected area networks in the Coral Triangle: implications for conservation and communities. In: Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park, eds. J. Clifton, R. Unsworth and D.J. Smith, p.237-250. Nova Science Publishers, New York.
  • Clifton, J., Unsworth R. and Smith, D.J., eds. (2010) Marine research and conservation in the Coral Triangle: the Wakatobi National Park. Nova Science Publishers, New York. ISBN: 978-1616684730.
  • Clifton, J. (2009). Science, funding and participation: key issues for marine protected area networks and the Coral Triangle Initiative. Environmental Conservation 36, 91-96.
  • Clifton, J. (2003). Prospects for co-management in Indonesia’s marine protected areas.Marine Policy 27, 389-395.