The narrative of environmental justice is powerfully and passionately advocated by researchers, practitioners and activists across scale and space. Yet, because these struggles are multifaceted and pluralistic, rooted in complex, evolving “socio-material-political interminglings” the concept is difficult to grasp, and even harder to realise. Recent literature raises concerns as to what makes for environmental injustices, how injustices are defined, classified as urgent and/or critical, by whom and why, how they gain political attention, etc. This paper draws attention to these issues by contrasting the largely untold, nonetheless entrenched and enduring “old” water supply injustices in the Darjeeling region of the Eastern Himalaya in India with articulate contestations relating to the speedy advancement of “new” hydropower projects here. Water supply problems in the Darjeeling region are particularly wicked – nested in fractious ethnicity–identity political conflicts. These complex local realities tend to obscure the everyday challenges relating to water as well as render these problems spatially anecdotal. What happens – or does not – around water here is certainly unique, yet comparison to other struggles in other settings show that locational and environmental politics provide critical evidence to question the several implicit universalisms in relation to water justice.
Bibliographical noteNOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geoforum. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geoforum, vol 61, 2015 DOI:10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.02.020
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- water supply