Vasudha Chhotray

SFHEA, Professor

  • 1.19 ZICER Building

Personal profile


I am a political scientist specialising in two distinct but interrelated areas of research: the politics and governance of natural resource use and extraction, and the larger politics of development in the Indian state.

I have worked extensively on the relationship between natural resources and politics, both at the micro and macro levels, mostly in India and the south Asian context, although not exclusively so. I bring a novel, critical perspective to these areas through an interdisciplinary research approach that is informed by development studies, comparative politics and political ecology. I specialise in the study of extractive regimes, disaster politics and citizenship controversies.

In my research into the politics of development in India, I strive to understand how development policies come about in a range of subnational political and bureaucratic settings, the types of norms and power relationships that drive them, and the effects they produce. 

I also work on broader issues of citizenship, certification and identity documents, marginalisation and access to state power in India and south Asia. I am especially interested in the problems of undocumented people in the face of harshening citizenship regimes.

I am a part of the Global Environmental Justice research group here at the School of Global Development. In my ongoing research, I am engaging with questions of social, environmental and climate justice in two selected areas: long-term disaster recovery, and the future of coal mining peoples and areas given the imperative of a just energy transition. You can hear me say more about my current research in this recent talk: 

I have a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 


Areas of Ph.D. supervision/postdoctoral mentorship

Political analysis of development and resource use; politics of mineral extraction and extractive regimes; politics of climate change, green energy and hydropower development; just energy transitions and the future of coal; environmental and social justice; long term drivers of disaster recovery; states and welfare provision; citizenship, local politics and identity documents; subnational political analysis of development, political ecology. India/South Asia.



Key Research Interests

Political analysis of development; political economy analysis of environmental change; governance, decentralisation and participation; environmental and social justice; extraction; hydroopower development; climate change discourse; disasters, vulnerability and recovery; states and welfare provision; citizenship, local politics and identity documents; fishers’ rights and marine protected areas. India.

Research Groups: Global Environmental Justice Politics, Governance and the State, UEA Water Security Research Centre 

Recent Research Grants and Awards 

FORMAS (Swedish Research Council) funded 'The end of coal and the future of land: Transformative mine closures for just and sustainable livelihoods in India' 2023-25 https://www.slu.end-of-coal

British Academy funded 'Recovery with Dignity' 2018-2020

DFID funded ‘Inclusive development and sub-national political settlements in newly created Indian states: a comparative study of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh’, Effective states and inclusive development research centre, University of Manchester, 2014-16.

IDRC and DFID funded ‘ASSAR’ (Adaptation at scale in semi-arid regions’) under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative for Asia and Africa, 2014-2018.

NWO funded ‘Conflict and Cooperation in the Management of Climate Change Project on Hydropower development in the context of Climate Change in the Eastern Himalayas’, 2014-2017

ESPA funded ‘Just Ecosystem Management: Linking ecosystem services with poverty alleviation’, 2010-2012

UNDP India Funding for year-long study in Orissa, 2009-2010

British Academy Small Research Grant 2008

Postdoctoral Fellow to Prof Gerry Stoker (ESRC Professorial Fellowship 2005-2007)

ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship 2004-5

Felix Scholarship for Ph.D. Research 1998-2002 

Research Projects:

'The end of coal and the future of land: Transformative mine closures for just and sustainable livelihoods in India'

The footprint of coal in India is enormous. Consequently, future coal mining closures promise to free up significant land areas measuring millions of hectares in regions traditionally inhabited by indigenous groups. The question is how this often degraded land may be restored for alternative uses, and who will be able to use it. Will the land be used for livelihoods in agriculture, forestry or fisheries, for new industrial ventures, or for forest plantations? The aim of this project is to explore the possibilities of returning land currently occupied by coal to communities in central-eastern India in support of just and sustainable livelihoods. It will be implemented in three of the poorest states of India where coal closures without pro-poor land distribution risk mass out migration.

'Recovery with dignity'

 This 2-year project, funded under the British Academy’s GCRF Sustainable Development Programme, generates applied knowledge on experiences of recovery in post-disaster settings within India using historical research and creative, participatory methodologies drawn from the humanities and social sciences. The hypothesis of the research is that recovery processes that recognise and respect the dignity of socially-differentiated populations will result in more sustainable responses, minimising ongoing trauma.


Inclusive development and sub-national political settlements in newly created Indian states: A comparative study of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh

This project aims to bridge a gap in the understanding of differing development performance of newly created states, through a political analysis of developmental trajectories in two such states in India. The research will use the political settlements approach to characterise sub-national political settlements in the two selected states, and explain variations in the states’ approaches to inclusive development in critical arenas.

Just Ecosystem Management: Linking ecosystem services with poverty alleviation

This is a two year research project (Oct 2010- Oct 2012) with funding under the ESPA initiative by NERC, DFID and ESRC. This project develops a novel conceptual framework to inform research on the linkages between ecosystem services and poverty alleviation. Four case studies in China, India, Nicaragua and Uganda illustrate key justice dimensions in the management of particular coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. My role is to lead the case study in Orissa in India, which follows on from my recent work on socio-political and environmental dimensions of vulnerability and recovery since the 1999 super-cyclone (see below). The current study will focus on socio-ecological tradeoffs concerning mangroves, agriculture and prawn cultivation in coastal Orissa.

Socio-political and environmental dimensions of vulnerability and recovery in coastal Orissa: Critical lessons since the 1999 super cyclone

The United Nations Development Programme, India funded a year-long study in coastal Orissa, India, ten years since the super-cyclone of 1999. This research built on an exploratory study carried out in November-December 2008 together with Roger Few through a British Academy Research Grant. It took a detailed look at livelihoods trajectories in eastern Orissa since 1999, the socio-political and environmental dimensions that have helped shape them, and examine how these translate into the ‘ongoing vulnerability’ of coastal communities. The project was completed between January and December 2010.

An executive summary can be found here

The full report can be found here

The impacts of ecosystem services and environmental governance on human well-being in the Phongola floodplain, South Africa

The Pongola River ESPA was a project managed by Bruce Lankford (DEV, UEA), Chris Dickens and Kate Pringle (both INR, South Africa). I worked on this project together with a project team that included Fonda Lewis, Myles Meander and Zibonele Nxele (from INR)  and Marisa Goulden (from DEV). It was one of 12 projects funded by NERC examining the linkages between eco-system services and poverty alleviation (ESPA). The research site was in the Pongola/Jozini water system in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. The project ran from January 2009 to January 2010. My role was to examine the governance and institutional arrangements in the floodplain area and to clarify their links with ecosystem services and poverty reduction.

Conference, Presentations & Invited Talks

2024 ‘Coal communities and coal lands at a moment of ‘just transition’ in India. Dr BR Ambedkar lecture series on Climate Justice. Columbia Climate School, Columbia University, March.

2023 & 2022 'A supercyclone, landscapes of "emptiness" and shrimp aquaculture: the lesser-known trajectories of disaster recovery in coastal Odisha, India'. National University of Singapore (August 2023) and South Asian Studies Departmental Seminar at the University of Oxford, (October 2022)

2021 ‘Decolonising Development’, Invited Talk at the DSA Conference, Norwich, June

2021 ‘Certifications of citizenship’, Invited talk at the University of Copenhagen, CERTIZENS research project, March

2019 ‘The political construction of extractive regimes’ at the School of Development Studies, Public lectures at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and IIT, Mumbai, August

2017 'Newly created Indian states and inclusive development: the sub-national political settlements of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh', Development in the face of global inequalities conference, Barcelona, May

2014 ‘Certifications of citizenship: the history, politics and materiality of identity documents’, Panel Convenor and presenter, European Association for South Asian Studies, Zurich, July

2014 ‘The morality of disaster relief’, Brown bag seminar series, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UEA, Norwich, March

2013 ‘Two types of citizenship politics: State, authority and property in coastal Odisha’, presented at ProCit, University of Copenhagen, May

2013 ‘Justice at Sea: Marine conservation and fishers’ politics in coastal Odisha, India’, presented at MARE, Amsterdam, June

2012 ‘Justice at Sea: Marine conservation and fishers’ politics in coastal Odisha, India’, presented at the Development Studies Association, London, November

Chhotray, V. 2010 ‘Disaster relief and the Indian state: Justice or Political Economy’, paper for the Global Environmental Justice Workshop, School of International Development, University of East Anglia, July 2-3.

Chhotray, V., 2009 'Unequal Imaginaries of Transformation: Multiple Crises and Livelihoods Recovery in Coastal Orissa, India', Paper presented at DSA Annual Conference, University of Ulster, September 2-4.

Chhotray, V., 2009 'Rejecting binaries in state-NGO relationships: How Samaj Pragati Sahyog works the state and why it succeeds' at the 'Experiencing the State: Marginalised People and the Politics of Development in India' conference at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, March 12-13.

Chhotray, V., 2008 ‘The Idea of “Anti-Politics” presented at a ‘Workshop on Citizenship and Democracy in honour of John Dunn’, University of Southampton, March 7, 2008.

Chhotray, V., 2007 'How Samaj Pragati Sahyog works the state and why it succeeds'. Presentation at the conference 'Civil society in water governance in South Asia', October 10-12 at Pune, India.
Link to Document

Chhotray, V., and Hume, D., 2006 ‘Contrasting visions for aid and governance in the 21st century: White House Millennium Challenge Account versus DFID Drivers of Change’, presented at the Hallsworth Conference on ‘Opening up Governance’, University of Manchester, Manchester and subsequently at SOAS, UEA and LSE in 2007.
Link to Document

Chhotray, V., and Woodhouse, P., 2005 ‘Legal and extra-legal channels for the redress of historical injustice: Water rights in India and South Africa’, presented at an International Workshop on ‘Water Poverty and Social Crisis: Perspectives for Research and Action’, Agadir, Morocco.
Link to Document

Chhotray, V., 2005 'Responsive to whom? The state and fast track participation in a south Indian district' , paper presented at the UN and Government of Queensland co-organised International Conference on Engaging Communities, Brisbane, Australia and the British Association for South Asian Studies, Leeds.
Link to Document

Chhotray, V., 2005 ‘Political entrepreneurs or development agents? An NGOs story of resistance and acquiescence’, paper presented at the 4th International NGO Conference, IDPM, Manchester.
Link to Document

Chhotray, V., 2005 'Depoliticisation through local institution building for participatory watershed development in India', paper presented at LSE Department of Geography & Environmental Seminar Series, and Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, International Development Seminar Series.

Chhotray, V., 2003 ‘The Politics of Development: Knowledge, Representation and Power’, paper presented at the Annual South Asia Conference, University of Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

If you are unable to access journals please email Vasudha at


Key Responsibilities

School Post-Graduate Research Director (Spring Semester)

Teaching Interests


Introduction to Development Studies

Introduction to Politics of Development

South Asian Development

Politics, Development and Society


Contemporary World Development

Development Perspectives

Ph.D. Students

Gaurav Bansal (Rural accumulation and agrarian change in Punjab, India)

David Singh (Wind power and land dispossession politics in Kutch, Gujarat,  India)

Harsh Vasani (Indo-Nepal transboundary hydropolitics)

Rajanya Bosi (Adivasi classes of labour, livelihoods and politics in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, India)

Ph.D. students (completed)

Citlalli Becerril-Tinoco (Water rights allocation: Extraction and consumption practices in the Upper Lerma River Basin, Mexico).

Ignacio Macedo Castillejos (Decentralising Rural Development: A case study of the implementation process of the Sustainable Rural Development Act in Mexico.)

Hailing Zhao (From "Civil Society" to "Gongyi Cishan": The Changing Landscape of China's NGO Sector)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or