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Volunteering for Climate Adaptation and Disasters in the Indian Sundarbans

Living Deltas Research Hub and Voluntary Labour, Climate Adaptation & Disasters (VOCAD) Research Initiative

The research project "Volunteering for Climate Adaptation and Disasters in the Indian Sundarbans" is led by Professor Matt Baillie Smith in collaboration with a team from Jadavpur University as part of the UKRI-GCRF Living Deltas Research Hub wider collaborative project.

The project focuses on the context of the Indian Sundarbans (Indian part of the Ganges‐Brahmaputra‐Meghna Delta) and Kolkata city, located in the Indian state of West Bengal, to generate new evidence on the ways individuals and organisations mobilise labour in their approaches to disasters response and adaptation.

It aims to understand the everyday ways delta dwellers undertake voluntary or unpaid work to respond to disasters and or the changing environment and how this work is organised. It also explores the unpaid and voluntary labour of individuals and groups outside the Sundarbans in contributing to crisis response and responses to the changing climate, and how their labour impacts those present in the Sundarbans to build sustainable delta futures.

The research has the following objectives:

  • To conceptualise the different kinds of voluntary labour mobilised for climate adaptation and disasters response in the Indian Sundarbans.
  • To analyse the different ways voluntary labour is managed and governed in strategies for adaptation and crises response by the civil society and private sector.
  • To assess the impacts of voluntary labour on adaptation, climate response and participants’ lives.
  • To increase understanding and awareness of the role of voluntary labour in crises response and adaptation.
  • To increase understanding of the importance of voluntary labour in climate adaptation strategies and disasters in the Indian Sundarbans, and beyond, providing evidence and insight to support improvements in policy and practice.

    The project’s activities involve qualitative and participatory visual research methods to engage with a diverse set of stakeholders in the Sundarbans region (Gosaba, Sagar and Basanti) and Kolkata, including current and former volunteers, regional and local grassroots level organisations, private sector organisations and communities affected by the changing delta environment.

Photobook: Narratives and Images from Volunteers in the Indian Sundarbans

Photobook Cover 

Click HERE to read and download the photobook (in English and Bangla)

This book draws from the photos and diary entries from research participants involved with the activities of VOCAD (Volunteering for Climate Adaptation and Disasters) in the Indian Sundarbans. The photobook reveals the diverse, critical and complex roles that voluntary labour plays in the lives of delta dwellers in a region that has been deeply affected by climate-related disasters and changes to its delicate ecosystem, impacting the lives of millions.

In the opening words of Dr. Andrew Fleming, British Deputy High Commissioner to East and North East India, who endorsed the photobook: 

"I am proud to introduce what is a both and beautiful book, but also an important piece of research built on a strong UK/India collaboration. I hope the insights shared here can be widely disseminated and contribute to ensuring we do all we can to protect fragile but vital ecosystems such as the Indian Sundarbans".

You can find out more about the Living Deltas Hub here and also access resources about the VOCAD research activities in the Indian Sundarbans here. For more information, please contact Prof Matt Baillie SmithMelisa Maida or Sumana Banerjee


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