International Development Planning Review

Hydrosocial practice in an urbanising floodplain: local management and dilemmas of beneficial flooding

International Development Planning Review (2020), 42, (3), 315–335.

Abstract

In Southeast Asia, how flooding is named or studied is not only a matter of fact, but distinctions of flooding as ‘beneficial’ or ‘disaster’ elicit specific reactions from city management, government and residents. This is particularly true in cities across Myanmar, which have been chronically under-resourced to deal with flooding. This paper investigates the overlooked informal work of residents to manage flooding in urbanising Hpa An, a secondary city located along the Salween River. I draw on a hydrosocial approach and emphasise the practices of residents in local water management and responses to flooding. This contributes to our knowledge about flooding in Myanmar, as at present attentions have focused on large-scale, top down plans for water infrastructure in the country. I argue that close analysis of these practices in Hpa An reveals local hydrosocial relations as dynamic, locally embedded and responsive to change, but in ways that do not necessarily privilege the governance of water as development intervention or a centralised, statist endeavour. Without this knowledge of local responses and management of flooding, we are in a poor position to understand their impacts and interactions with broader changes in Myanmar and in a changing climate.

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Author details

Lamb, Vanessa