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Concrete Containers of Water: Floating Notes on Development
Mario ‘D’SouzA

The loss of an ecosystem for a community is not simply the loss of livelihood or a home but also the loss of a culture – the rites and rituals, mythologies, indigenous traditions and songs of its people. What happens when we expand our definition of an ecosystem and in turn of ecology by including social, cultural and economic dimensions of human communities? How can aesthetic practices address the political spheres that are being fortified in these bionetworks? Is development always cast in concrete or does urbanization start with upsetting our inherited order?

In 2006, Tehri, a historic town in Uttarakhand was submerged by one of the largest dams in India. In 2008, the re-emergence of a submerged portion of land otherwise consumed by an artificial reservoir became a significant point to collectively recall, recollect and re-frame the narrative of memory, loss, migration and compensation. For Frame Works (Artists Amit Mahanti and RuchikaNegi) what became a point of speculation was the underlying sense of anxiety and unease when people who belonged to the area spoke about the dams. This condition intensifies in Chungthang, North Sikkim (the site of the largest hydro-electric project in the state) where the fragility of human response in the face of such large scale change was much more palpable. In 2010, Sikkim was witnessing a spate of hydroelectric projects – twenty-seven existing / ongoing/proposed projects in the Teesta River Basin. On the one hand, there were opportunities that everyone was trying to make the best of, while on the other, there was a sense of loss; an inability to articulate what exactly was happening and how it should be dealt with. The immediacy of the moment allowed no room to reflect, observe or question – everyone was implicated in the process, one way or another, and perhaps despite themselves.

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