Marginality and Informality in Domestic Water Scarcity: Case of a Self-Service Mountain Town | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Marginalization of the mountain regions is manifold – environmental, political and financial. These get exacerbated by the geographical distance from administrative and development centers. Marginalization can be categorized as societal and spatial. For Darjeeling, West Bengal, the marginalization is as much economic as much as it is ethnic. Darjeeling lies in the Eastern Himalayan Region, one of the highest rainfall receiving regions in India. But the communities here have been facing water scarcity for decades. Amid marginalization, water injustice manifested as water scarcity gets obscured. Water scarcity, however, is a lived reality that is normalized along with the experiences of marginalization. In this paper, using the case of Darjeeling Municipal town, I examine the marginalization of the region through the informal nature of domestic water provisioning. The extensive presence and prevalence of informal systems and their intertwining with the formal, the pseudo municipality systems, and the over-dependence on the community organizations spell out the inability or unwillingness of the state towards alleviating the water scarcity. Through this paper, I explore the relationship between informality and marginality through a case of domestic water scarcity in Darjeeling. I carried out preliminary studies in 2014-15 and 2016 followed by year-long fieldwork from April 2018 to April 2019. I conducted key informant and water supplier interviews, transect walks, and review of public records and secondary literature followed by household questionnaires across the town. If we focus only on the state supplies, then we miss out a lot on how the informal supplies which are the majority of water suppliers. There is a reification of the formal initiatives. Despite the prevalence of informal water providers which have helped in providing water to households, the state needs to play a crucial role to address the public interest in urban development as a regulator.


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