After the Tsunami in Cooks Nagar: The Challenges of Participatory Rebuilding

In the context of post-disaster reconstruction, there is growing awareness of the need for more integrated inclusive processes that allow people to retake control of their lives, and that ensure practical responses to local conditions. Yet, a range of pressures and challenges conspire to make these approaches appear unworkable. “Participation” in this context, if it happens at all, is often cursory and superficial, whether it involves children or adults. This paper describes an attempt to respond to these challenges in one small community in Tamil Nadu, India, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The scope for real involvement on the part of children and their families was limited by a number of factors, but in the end they were able to exercise some genuine control over the reconstruction of their homes and neighbourhood. The paper discusses the replicability of this case, and argues for the importance of a process that includes children and adults together.

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