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Political economy of planned relocation: A model of action and inaction in government responses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colette Mortreux, Ricardo Safra de Campos, W. Neil Adger, Tuhin Ghosh, Shouvik Das, Helen Adams, Sugata Hazra

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Published1 May 2018

King's Authors


Planned relocation has been shown to have significant impacts on the livelihoods and wellbeing of people and communities, whether the resettlement process is inclusive or coercive. For states, planned relocation represents risks to those communities but also to government investments and political legitimacy. Evaluations of relocations commonly focus on the risks and benefits of government interventions while overlooking the consequences of not intervening. Here we develop a conceptual framework to examine the factors that influence government decision-making about whether or not to undertake planned relocation of populations in the context of environmental change. The study examines planned relocation decisions and non-decisions by government agencies in West Bengal in India for communities seeking relocation due to coastal flooding. It focuses on three localities facing river erosion losing significant land areas in small islands and communities where populations recognize the need for public intervention, but where there has been a diversity of responses from the state authorities. Data are derived from interviews with key respondents involved in planning and implementing relocation and with residents affected by those government decisions (n = 26). These data show that government action is explained by a combination of risk aversion within political systems to avoid perceived negative consequences, and a lack of government accountability. The empirical cases demonstrate the uneven application of action and inaction and the consequent uneven distribution of potential outcomes on populations. The study suggests that while there may be a growing demand for planned relocation in places affected by environmental change, its implementation is likely to be uneven, with profound socioeconomic implications for those living in such localities.

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