Balakrishnan Balachandran

Balakrishnan Balachandran PhD Candidate

Hometown: Thiruvananthapuram, India

Where did you go for undergrad and what did you major in?

Bachelor of Architecture, University of Kerala, India; Post Graduate Diploma in Planning, CEPT University, India

Research: Disasters have been displacing 25 million people globally on average every year. Those displaced – from individual families to entire communities – face the question of returning or relocating. Planners and planning processes play a significant role in nudging them towards that decision. While the dominant discourses around disaster-induced relocation tend to focus on hazard risk, the affected communities have to tradeoff hazard risk against risks to income, social capital, culture, identity, sentiments and historical legacy. My doctoral dissertation intends to unpack this risk tradeoff to provide insights to planners for ensuring that plans for post-disaster recovery and resiliency are sensitive to the realities of those displaced.

The coastal communities of South Louisiana are exposed to both chronic and acute hazards. Over several decades, this region has been losing land at an alarming rate to subsidence caused by various factors, forcing families and businesses to relocate. Hurricanes and storm surges aggravate the situation, forcing people to move even earlier than they would have expected to. Coastal communities have lives that are closely related to the place, not just in terms of their livelihood but also in terms of cultural and social practices. This is especially true of socially and economically vulnerable groups who are victims of discrimination and injustice historically and currently. Environmental changes in the region have been causing hardship and the process of relocation aggravates the situation, disrupting community and exposing those affected to a wider range of risks. The coastal communities of South Louisiana offer a critical case for understanding the risk tradeoff encountered by communities displaced by disaster.

Email: bbalach2@illinois.edu

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