Week 9 – Dams and Displacment

This weeks readings focused on the relationship with foreign investments, modernization, displacement, and the delusion of development. This week we read chapters three to seven of Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007 by Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman. The main point of this book is to show that this dam project, one of the biggest, has adverse effects on the people of the river basin surrounding the dam. It also shows the negative effects of this colonial project has on the political and economic security of Mozambique and its turn to post-colonialism colonialism and continued colonial political decisions. The goals set out by the portugal government, the colonial power at the time were meant to help Mozambique, portugal saw them as part of the same state indefinitely. Meant to provide cheap power as well as boost the economy, the result was negative though. These negative effects are the destruction of land, used to farm, a main source of food as well as economy of the basin-people. Fishing was another economy effected, another main sources of protein. People were forced out of their homes and villages, homes that were around for years, they lost a culture and way of life. The electricity produced was sold to South Africa very cheaply, even sold back into Mozambique industry by South Africa.
Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development gives great insight into the history, politics and culture around the dam project. It is well researched and gives first had accounts with great quotes. “Cahora Bassa has given us hunger” – Maria Faira. This quote easily shows the gap between colonist development and the rural poor who lost out in this situation. Exploitation and greed by the regimes that ran Mozambique and still has created unjust actions against a people that have been using the area for decades longer. Isaacman et al. give argument that colonial ‘development’ has a lasting negative effect on the colonized. The culture and politics of colonialism are lasting and sway politics, colonialism has taught states the elite get better, the poor get worse. Development is within a box of modernity, where the bottom line is political security and economic prosperity, stuck in a colonial idea of development. What sort of checks and balances should be put on development of this sort, how involved should the international community be, if at all? Who makes sure that the gap between the power and the rural does not expand?
There is some positive that Mozambique does gain full ownership of the dam and its power, though negative it shows some development for the state, government and economy. The book takes a negative stance as it should, standing up for the rural peoples. The books main focus is the gap of development rather then the negatives of the dam. It shows that development within this post-colonial context still effect positively on the elite, while the gap widens for the poor. Energy development should be offset like the book suggests with more sources of energy for the rural, such as solar or wind. There is a pyramid of exploitation within developing countries, each level exploited, the top level gaining the most. Should Mozambique have created a power grid system for Mozambique after gaining the dam from portugal? Or were they stuck within the colonial grasp of South Africa, as well as the post colonial ideas left by portugal? How does this connect to the idea that quickly developing countries like South Africa or India begin to act as a colonial power when gaining economic development?

Thomas Knoops


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