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Contested KnowledgeScience, Media, and Democracy in Kerala$
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Shiju Sam Varughese

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199469123

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199469123.001.0001

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Loss of Trust in Experts

Loss of Trust in Experts

Earthquakes, Dams, and Well Collapses

Chapter:
(p.118) 5 Loss of Trust in Experts
Source:
Contested Knowledge
Author(s):

Shiju Sam Varughese

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199469123.003.0005

When a series of micro-earthquakes struck Kerala, various scientific institutions provided contradictory explanations regarding the epicentres and magnitudes, leading to public criticism. The regional media actively facilitated the public contestation of knowledge claims by different groups of experts. The media deliberation also brought in public anxiety about reservoir-induced seismicity as the epicentre of the quakes was near the Idukki dam. The gradual shift of deliberative focus from the potential threat posed by Idukki dam to the old Mullaperiyar dam is analysed to expose how regionalism and inter-state conflicts crucially shaped the scientific controversy. The controversy intensified after the devastating Gujarat earthquake on 26 January 2001. The fear of a looming disaster aggravated when a range of unnatural geophysical phenomena, among which well collapses were the most prominent, appeared in Kerala, leading to more conflicts among researchers as well as between the experts and the public.

Keywords:   Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), fringe theories, Gujarat earthquake, inter-state water dispute, lay knowledge, Mullaperiyar dam, natural disasters in India, reservoir-induced seismicity (RIS), risk perception

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