Week 9: Changing Landscapes: Dams, Degradation and Displacement

The readings assigned for this week’s blog post are several chapters from the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007, written by Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman. The book discusses some of the many social issues that developed as a result of the building of the Cahora Bassa Dam on the Zambezi River in Mozambique. In chapter three, it is demonstrated that the project is supposed to have many economic benefits for the local populations, which will improve their quality of life. However, in order for the dam to be built the African communities in the Songo highlands were forced out of their homes for reasons that are extremely colonialist in nature. It is difficult to see right from its initial stages how the construction of the dam could be accepted by the locals or better their lives when it has already caused oppression by the displacement of the basin-based communities. In the following chapter, we see how officials dealt with having to force people from their homes by compensating the local communities who have been displaced with new land. I question whether this is fair compensation considering that what these people had to give up and leave behind with no choice in the matter. Although companies advertise these benefits and compensations that they are providing for the people of Mozambique, the other illustrate very clearly that this is not the case. Due to the fact that the dam remained under control of Portugal the poor urban and rural population did not gain any access to the neither the revenues generated by the dam, nor the electricity produced by it, until 2007 when Mozambique acquired only a small piece of equity in the dam. Not only was Portugal reaping the majority of the benefits of the construction of the dam but South Africa also shared in this unequal distribution of revenues and wealth generated by the dam. Although the authors argue that there is little academic literature regarding the effects of the creation of the dam on downriver communities, one can certainly imagine that negative impacts have also been felt by these communities, especially when looking at the environmental impacts a project such as this would generate. Time and time again we see similar situations arising where rural populations are being displaced and exploited to serve countries and people other than there own despite claims that it is for their own benefit; the Three Gorges Dam in China is another example of this. How can local communities such as those in Mozambique, attempt to resist and prevent these types of situations from happening? Is there a way for locals to avoid being manipulated by large corporations and foreign governments?

M. Singlehurst 120372730


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