This week we focused on Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development. The book by Allen F. Isaacman and Barbara S. Isaacman (2013) discusses the Cohora Bassa dam project and the consequences of the first dam build in Mozambique.
Chapter three begins to explore the involvement of the Portuguese government. The Portuguese claimed to have the best intentions when developing this dam, explaining the construction as modernizing and providing development improvements for the countries. By using these concepts (suggesting they will be helping to “close the economic gap – between the rich and the poor”) there was little to no opposition. However, as the authors explain in this novel, these fantasizes where not the reality. There was instead tons of segregation, abuse (including beating and whipping) and erasure of indigenous culture/narrative. The construction of the dam ended up being very racialized and colonial.
Chapter four discussed the displacement of local people (see pages 101 and 102). It also explained how the agricultural and sacred land was taken from them. Chapter five explores this further by discusses the environmental and human impacts from the dam. For example, they greatly impact the crops as they cannot grow without water and yet on the other hand, if there is too much water (flooding) they will rot. They also impact fisherman and other water reliant livelihoods and the heath of communities, as there is an increase in diseases associated with mosquitoes.
Chapter six discusses how the energy, and ownership, is displaced. Is explains how local people do not gain any benefits from this dam, however they are the ones who suffer greatly from it. Chapter seven also highlights how in certain ways colonialism has been sustained through the dam. This also contributes to the lack of ownership and benefits.
All of these chapters entice to be feeling a great deal of concern for future foreign investment. If the IMF was so supportive of this initially, is there really a critical overseeing council that will be able to foresee these types of dangers? When should NGO’s be included, if at all? How can countries build trust between each other… or is there such thing as true trust and loyalty in regards to inter-country investment and aid?
Further discussion questions:
Do the risks out way the benefits, or do the benefits out way the risks? Does providing this amount of electricity to the receiving country, out way the destruction of land and livelihoods? Who is entitled to make these decisions, and who should be included in this process?
Who is accountable? Should the local people be… in addition to the foreign investors?
How can locals be part of a solution?