Representing Disasters and Long-term Recovery – Insights from Tamil Nadu

Chandni Singh, Mark Tebboth, Jasmitha Arvind, Yashodara Udupa  | 2021 


This study focuses on disaster impacts and recovery in Tamil Nadu, drawing on insights from Chennai city and Nagapattinam district. The research is part of a larger three-year project called “Recovery with Dignity”, which examines the experiences of recovery in post-disaster situations across three states in India – Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala – and explores how recovery processes represent vulnerable populations. In this report, we focus on three key disasters in Tamil Nadu: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2015 South India flood, and the 2018 Cyclone Gaja. Through these events, we examine how the ways disasters and their losses are represented  shape recovery outcomes. The study uses a range of data, from a review of state policies in Tamil Nadu (2005-2019), an analysis of media articles published in English and Tamil (2004-2019), to interviews with disaster-affected people and secondary stakeholders. The findings indicate that disaster responses and outcomes are highly differentiated based on how disaster-affected people and their needs and losses are represented. To enable inclusive recovery, it is necessary to recognising the heterogenous nature of disaster impacts and acknowledge different ideas of what recovery means.