As a water governance practitioner, I aspire to create platforms of exchange, discussion, and debate between different stakeholders to facilitate participatory and democratic decision-making that addresses growing environmental challenges faced by the world today. While technical experts have made vast progress in developing engineering solutions for problems of environmental degradation and climate adaptation, there is an increasing awareness of the limits of technocratic approaches to resource management. Simultaneously increasing is an awareness of the need to incorporate experiences and perspectives of those most affected by the changing climate, including farmers and fishers. To achieve this, there is a need to develop equitable platforms of knowledge exchange and co-production which can pave the way for just pathways to sustainability. With this goal, through my research at IHE Delft, I have been documenting perspectives of women from indigenous fishing communities on protection of coastal wetlands of Chennai in south India. Further, I intend to design an awareness campaign about the crucial role of coastal wetlands in flood management and food security, increasing development pressures faced by wetland ecology, as well as the role of women from indigenous fisher communities in sustaining wetlands. To kickstart this campaign, I am collaborating with Chennai-based filmmaker, Bhargav Prasad, to produce a film called “Fight with Care”.
This film seeks to portray the lives of women from indigenous fishing communities living for generations on the coastal wetlands of Chennai. It shines light on the many ways that women contribute to the artisanal fishing economy, supporting the lives of their families and communities through mostly unpaid and undervalued labour. Today, as women from fishing communities organize as groups to rally for the protection of their coastal environment and ecology on which they intimately depend for their livelihood, their valuable perspectives need to be heard on wider platforms. The film “Fight with Care” brings forward two major themes; the first is the rising pressures of development, such as encroachments and industrial pollution, on the fragile coastal wetlands of Chennai, as well as the ways in which local communities are resisting, or fighting, these pressures. The second is the invaluable care-work offered by women of indigenous communities, that has facilitated life on the wetland for generations, and offers an alternative way to understand and value the wetland ecosystem.
Through the making of this film, we aim to amplify the voices of women fishers campaigning for wetland protection in Chennai. Additionally, we aim to spark debates and discussions about the value of wetlands, their rapid disappearance from the earth’s surface, and the implications of that on climate change. Further, we wish to blur lines between pursuits of environmental and social justice by bringing together issues of environmental degradation, economic growth, gender, and caste. Such a film would inspire transdisciplinary research in water and environmental governance.