The Tsunami and Its Aftermath: Resilience and Rupture of the Social Fabric Among the Nicobarese

  • Mohammed A. AbidEmail author


The Indian Ocean Tsunami that hit the coastal belt and island territories of several countries on 26th December 2004 had a devastating impact on the inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The ancient communities of the indigenous Nicobarese who inhabit the small and flat islands of the Nicobar group were perhaps the worst affected. They not only lost a larger proportion of their population than any other affected community, they also had to contend with the near complete obliteration of their cultural heritage. Before the tsunami, the Nicobarese were a good example of a cohesive, resource rich, pre-agricultural community, which, aided by a protective State policy, had managed to preserve its cultural identity by successfully negotiating the direction and pace of social change. However, today there are several challenges and dilemmas which confront this indigenous population. These arise not only out of the nature of ‘loss’ and ‘displacement’ suffered by the Nicobarese, due to the tsunami disaster, but also as a consequence of a whole gamut of ‘relief’ and ‘rehabilitation’ interventions launched by the State and non-State players. The community’s political organization, its social institutions of family and kinship, and the whole network of social relations which regulated economic activity and resource exploitation have been subjected to enormous stress and pressures. The disaster has also led to the resurfacing of issues related to land rights and entitlements. This chapter seeks to explore the issues related to the ‘loss’ and ‘displacement’—territorial, habitat, psychosocial, economic, political, and cultural—suffered by the Nicobarese on Katchal island and the strategies adopted by them in coping with this unprecedented situation. It also examines the impact—ideological, economic, and social—of the external interventions and the extent of resilience/transformation of traditional institutions in this context. In the light of this experience, the chapter attempts to outline policy issues and concerns which need to be addressed for ensuring a smooth post-disaster transition of remotely located, small, protected communities into the world of modern capitalist development.


Nicobarese Disaster management Relief Rehabilitation Aid 


  1. Abid, Mohammed A. 2006. Relief and Rehabilitation: Role of Civil Society Organizations. Report submitted to the Andaman and Nicobar Administration.Google Scholar
  2. Brahmam, G.N.V., K. Venkaiah, A. Laxmaiah, Ch. Gal Reddy, Sharad Kumar, and B. Siva Kumar. 2005. Health and Nutrition Status of Tsunami Affected Population Living in the Relief Camps in Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Rapid Survey. National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.Google Scholar
  3. Department of Environment and Forests, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 2013. Forests Statistics. Port Blair: Department of Environment and Forests, 2005 and 2013.Google Scholar
  4. Dhingra, Kiran. 2005. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the 20th Century: A Gazetteer. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Digal, Janak. n.d. Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Post-tsunami livelihood measures. Port Blair: Andaman and Nicobar Administration.Google Scholar
  6. Directorate of Census Operations, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, District Census Handbook 2011.Google Scholar
  7. Justin, Anstice. 1990. The Nicobarese. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India.Google Scholar
  8. M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. 2005. Action Plan for Development of Post-Tsunami New Andaman. Port Blair: M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Nova Trend. George Weber’s Lonely Islands. US Geological Survey.
  10. Porwal, Vivek. n.d. Living with Hope: Life in Nicobar Post-Tsunami. Port Blair: Andaman and Nicobar Administration.Google Scholar
  11. Singh, K.S. (ed.). 1989. Jawaharlal Nehru, Tribes and Tribal Policy. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India.Google Scholar
  12. Singh, Simron Jit. 2003. In the Sea of Influence: A World of System Perspective of the Nicobar Islands. Lund: Lund University.Google Scholar
  13. Singh, Simron Jit. 2006. The Nicobar Islands: Cultural Choices in the Aftermath of the Tsunami. Vienna: Oliver Lehmann.Google Scholar
  14. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). 2005. Post-Tsunami Situation of Katchal Island. Mumbai: TISS.Google Scholar
  15. Tyagi, Madhumala Chattopadhyay, and B.V. Ravi Prasad. 2002. Nutritional Status of Indian Population: Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Kolkata: Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Resource ManagementTata Institute of Social SciencesHyderabadIndia

Personalised recommendations