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Title: Locating Flood Disaster Displaced Persons in the 'Environmental Refugee' Discourse
Subtitle: A Case from the National Park Environment in India
Author(s): DAS, Bidhan Kanti
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 23    Issue: 4   Date: 2016   
Pages: 625-661
DOI: 10.2143/EP.23.4.3188785

Abstract :
In the ‘environmental refugee’ discourse, researchers endeavour to conceptualise various types of forced displaced persons, displaced by different natural and/or environmental disruptions. They are classified under different categories: ‘disaster refugees’, ‘expropriation refugees’ or ‘deterioration refugees’, ‘climate refugees’, and so on. This study focuses on the case of forest villagers who were forcefully displaced from their original habitat and had to relocate to other parts of the forest area due to flood disaster. We base ourselves on microlevel field data from a national park located in the foothills of Sub-Himalayan West Bengal in India. This case is particularly important as several legal restrictions have been imposed on access to forest resources used by local inhabitants in national parks and sanctuaries under various conservation Acts. Drawing on issues evolved from causes and consequences, this article attempts to analyse whether this type of flood-disaster-forced displaced persons can be conceptualised under existing conceptual categories of forced migrants. If not, what should we call them? This may help us to understand the status of forest villagers in the context of the current forest management approach. It is argued that in the absence of definite status and recognition of flood-disaster displaced persons in forest policy, a kind of alienation from the forest has developed among forest villagers, which might be detrimental towards the sustainability of India’s precious biodiversity.

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