Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Rangaswamy Rajagopal


This dissertation provides an authoritative account of reconstruction in the water sector after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in coastal, deltaic South India. In particular, this study examines 14 newly constructed housing settlements in the adjacent study areas of Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu, and Karaikal District, Puducherry. There is currently a paucity of literature dedicated to water components of reconstruction. Thus, this study expands the discourse and posits water elements of post-disaster processes as unique and therefore deserving of increased scholarly attention. The study is informed by a multi-methods approach and a geographical perspective. The methodologies include, inter alia, qualitative and quantitative survey instruments; key informant interviews; focus group discussions; the employment of primary documents; and environmental analyses through bacteriological and chemical water quality testing. Geographically, data, information, and actions are perceived as the coalescence of localized socio-cultural, politico-economic, and environmental fabrics. This approach to viewing circumstances is imperative for dissecting the outcomes of reconstruction processes in a specific context, and consequently for understanding problems, identifying solutions, and gauging the appropriateness of particular configurations in place-based systems.

This dissertation critiques the models utilized for reconstruction in the two study areas. The scales of inquiry are demographically and geo-physically similar, yet differ in political organization. It is argued that Nagapattinam executed a model of reconstruction founded on collaborative governance, while Karaikal exercised a single agency approach. Thus, various governmental agencies were responsible for specific reconstruction activities in Nagapattinam, whereas a single agency was responsible for all activities in Karaikal. In general, the latter approach, which was less layered, produced comparatively better outcomes. Moreover, both jurisdictions implemented 'hard' paths for water management and operationalized panoptic and revenue-based methods of reconstruction, albeit inefficiently. Numerous shortcomings in reconstruction outcomes were uncovered (e.g., water quality, quantity, and pressure), as were an array of organic coping mechanisms established by affectees in order to surmount such inadequacies. To that end, it is contended that: the coping mechanisms fail to remedy the condition; much of the waterscape is beyond the control of the subjects; and the governments are ultimately deficient in responding to the needs of their citizens. The post-tsunami waterscapes are also analyzed quantitatively through the development of a contextualized, multi-scalar Water Poverty Index (WPI). The WPI is deployed with three distinct weighing schemes and reveals that, on the whole, the sites situated in Karaikal generally perform better than those in Nagapattinam. Interestingly enough, the sites located in rural Nagapattinam outperform their urban counterparts. This case--primarily a product of different water treatment processes--challenges conventional rural-urban dichotomies. Given the occurrence of poor water quality, an investigation of boiling as a method of household water treatment (HWT) surfaces several barriers to and caveats of its adoption. Data indicate that boiling is less effective than could be; thus, it is argued that boiling may not be the optimal strategy for HWT. Lastly, advised by the corpus of data, this dissertation presents a novel framework for managing water components of post-disaster reconstruction. The framework identifies common project failures, can be harnessed independently or alongside existing instruments, and possesses diagnostic, management, and evaluative potential.


Disaster Reconstruction, India, Resettlement, Tsunami, Water Poverty Index, Water Resources Management


xvii, 417 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 393-417).


Copyright 2012 Luke Juran

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Geography Commons