Contaminated Water, Contaminated Technologies: Water Quality in formation of Developmental State in Rural Southern Bihar

Donnerstag (21. September 2023), 18:15–19:45
HZ 15
Amit Kumar Srivastwa (Ambedkar University Delhi)
Groundwater in this village is filled with fluoride contaminants, which over time formed incidences of fluorosis among the households. Many clusters in the old settlement have fluorosis incidences in each and every households. Impact of these incidences are that much critical that in the early 2000s, state government moved an entire cluster from the old settlement to the outskirts of Hardiya village. The logic behind shifting households was to provide better quality of groundwater. Contaminated water quality and affected families further drawn attention of various state, non-state, and transnational institutions to intervene in this village through different projects and programs, and govern the households as a subject of development.
water quality; materiality of water; political ecology; Anthropology of the State; STS


This study revolves around a village in the southernmost part of Bihar state in India. This region is filled with fluoride contamination in groundwater, which causes fluorosis disease among households. Fluorosis incidences affected generations, making people partially or entirely incapable of social and economic reproduction. In response, state, non-state and private enterprises intervened in this village to provide access to ‘safe’ drinking water. These twenty-three years of interventions introduced different technologies and infrastructures which governed the village’s households as a development subject. However, narratives, observations, and government reports express that these policy-based technological interventions failed miserably due to poor operation, maintenance, and acceptance of the introduced infrastructures. Drinking water infrastructures, however, arranged the spatial conditions in this village and (re)formed the sociotechnical relations between community, state, and non-state.

This Paper examines the notion of water quality in a historically geographically produced marginal landscape. Further, this paper elaborates on how fluorosis incidences among households drew the attention of state and non-state institutions to intervene in this village, and how these interventions produce heterogeneity among the spaces within the space of the village. Finally, this paper explains how these negotiations form the public imagination of infrastructures and states in their daily lives. Through a mix-method approach (data collection, ethnographic accounts, key-respondent and in-depth interviews), this paper understands the ground reality and argue that space, time and material conditions create unequal sociotechnical relations within the village.