The water question in India has several contentious dimensions, be they inter-state river disputes, groundwater extraction by private corporations, farmer agitations for irrigation water, or urban anxieties over meeting water needs. Rohan D'Souza argues that the British project of flood control in the Orissa Delta was principally political in intent, aimed at anchoring their presence in the area. In Drowned and Dammed he comprehensively reconsiders the debate on the colonial environmental watershed and its hydraulic legacy in India. Colonial capitalism sought to dominate the Orissa Delta's many rivers by bringing about an unprecedented ecological rupture. Through the rubric of flood control, British rule instituted capitalist private property in land and re- shaped the region's hydrology with physical infrastructures such as embankments, canal networks, and dams. The Orissa delta was thus dramatically transformed from a flood-dependent agrarian regime into a flood-vulnerable landscape.
Rohan D'Souza is Associate Professor, Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan.