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Holistically understanding and enhancing the adaptation of remote high-mountain communities to hydrometeorological extremes and associated geohazards in a changing climate

Kaul, Vaibhav (2019) Holistically understanding and enhancing the adaptation of remote high-mountain communities to hydrometeorological extremes and associated geohazards in a changing climate. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

In rapidly warming high-mountain environments, extreme precipitation events commonly generate extensive slope failures, flash floods and glacier-related hazards, which can be devastating to resident communities. This interdisciplinary project seeks to holistically understand human engagement with the severe risks arising from such geohazards in the wake of recent climatic change and also contemporaneous processes of social change. Focusing on remote rural communities in two monsoon-affected river basins in the Indian High Himalaya, the study uses extended ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative local-scale geomorphological observations, and quantitative hydroclimatological analyses to assess current and future environmental risks as well as local understandings and cultural models of those risks, community resilience, and adaptive capacity. The findings are synthesised to devise a strategic framework for culturally responsive action to protect and improve lives and livelihoods. // The dissertation places ontologically disparate local/traditional and Western/modern scientific understandings of climate-related geohazards into the context of each other, allowing the unique insights offered by each to be appreciated against the backdrop of the other. It uses shared geographies to integrate the seemingly irreconcilable knowledge systems, both spatially and conceptually. The practical outcome of this epistemic synthesis is that it enriches earth science-based hazard assessments with ethnographically robust emic perspectives on geomorphic processes, providing external development practitioners, planners and policymakers with a genuine sense of lived experiences of change and extremes in the physical environment. // Much of the ethnography intensively examines the fascinating dimension of indigenous geographical knowledges that transcends the materiality of the environment and the hazards that operate in it. This includes explorations of folkloristic models of landscape dynamics that lend form and spatiality to traditional metaphysical convictions, spiritualities, moralities, and emotionalities associated with geohazards operating within a certain social change context. By engaging with these commonly overlooked but behaviourally potent aspects of human-environment relationships, the epistemology of hazards developed in the dissertation can aid in developing more culturally compatible, and therefore potentially more efficacious, strategies for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in remote high-mountain settings across the Himalaya and elsewhere in the Global South.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mr Vaibhav Kaul
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2019 15:47
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2019 15:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24742

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