Environmental Justice

Natural disasters further escalate the issues with environmental justice. The term itself was coined in the late twentieth century as a part of a social movement to expose how various communities of race, color, and income are disproportionately impacted by the health dangers in the environment.[6] Natural disasters such as floods reinforce this concept by providing additional evidence. By addressing such issues brought upon by the floods, the purpose is to help the government recognize that such communities need more resources and funding in order to rebuild their homes and deal with the burdens brought upon by flooding.

In the city of New Orleans, the victims most impacted by the floods following Hurricane Katrina were of African American descent. The Black population predominantly resided in communities with a lower average income, and therefore less affluent.[6] The federal response to such neighborhoods was recognized as slow and caused more deaths and a greater property damage.[6] The issue, however, is that a high number of mental health issues were recognized in such communities due to institutional discrimination.[6] Unfortunately, such families suffered both psychologically and physically. Considering that many of these individuals were from low-income families, a number of them were not able to leave their homes following the disaster due to financial restraints. As a result, a number of citizens returned to their homes even though the environment was not completely deemed safe. The soil contained various toxins from “left from Katrina’s flood waters including fuel components, metals, pesticides, and many other chemicals (Roach, 2005). [6] Therefore, making the Black population more prone to respiratory illnesses. As part of the federal response, it is important to recognize such flaws in the current response program and perhaps provide additional funds to help such communities cope with the burdens of flooding and psychological stress as a result of institutional discrimination.

In South India, the population that suffered the most were low-income families. A major cause of the flood was illegal construction. A number of poor communities had built their homes on low-lying areas that were prone to flooding because it was a more affordable option. Such regions were accustomed to flooding during the monsoon season simply because of a poor water infrastructure.[11] However, the 2015 Chennai floods called for the government in Tamil Nadu to finally address this issue and destroy many of the homes that block the natural path of drainage. Unfortunately, in their efforts, over 15,000 homes have been lost in the slums.[11] A number of these citizens have been displaced to other regions and not provided with nearly enough funds as needed in order to rebuild their homes. The incident once again reinforces the idea that a proper federal response should properly assist all parts of the population regardless of race or income.