Week 9

In the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, the author explains how the Portuguese created one of the most outstanding dams in Mozambique, Africa and the various societal, economical and political implications that came along with it. To begin, Chapter 3 primarily focuses on the local impact the construction of this dam had on African individuals, more specifically the claimed economic value the dam would have for local workers and the reality that occurred after it was built. Many locals were forcefully physically and hierarchically displaced, as foreigners came in and affected their livelihood. This can be seen as a form of colonialism, where foreigners exploit local people and their natural resources. How can local African individuals have a voice against such powerful figures when they come into the land and change their living and income situation? If an effective way to communicate was taken, would this make a difference to the competitive businessmen who run the operation? If not, what measures can be taken so that local individuals are given a fair voice in regards to this matter?

In Chapter 4, the author focuses on the first five years of building the dam. What is important to note about this chapter is the aid given back to some of the locals pushed off their land earlier. Numerous local individuals were paid with a new plot of land that was suitable for farming upon coming. This indicates that local individuals voiced their concern and were partially successful by receiving new plots of land. Do you think this act of aid justifies the Portuguese for building the dam in the first place? What are some possible underlying reasons for officials to grant local individuals plots of land? Are any of those reasons genuine or are they all in favor of the dam operation?

In Chapter 5, the author discusses the last part of this operation and its implications for local people, physical landscapes, biological diversification and the country’s status in respect to others globally. The author also mentions how downriver communities are not heavily focused on in research and thus, they are silenced. This indicates that not all angles of this operation have been taken, with a major gap occurring for these communities. Why are local downriver communities not heavily researched for this project? Why do they lack agency and yet other communities receive plots of land as compensation? Do you think this gap in research occurs continuously with other operations worldwide? How can one ensure that all communities are given a voice in respect to these matters?

Chapter 6 focuses on the aftermath of building this dam in Mozambique, particularly how there has been little economic benefit for individuals in surrounding communities, regardless of previous claims. The energy from this dam has been rerouted and mainly benefits South Africa, rather than the local country. It is not surprising that the wealth is being distributed unfairly, as capitalists gain the most, while local workers struggle to maintain their livelihood. In the future, how can local populations benefit from this dam? Is it possible to reroute the distribution of wealth so it spreads more fairly? Or is this a naïve way of thinking, since the flow of economic prosperity has been set in a particular way for a long time now?

Lastly, in Chapter 7, the author explains the condition of Mozambique right now, shedding light on how little conditions have changed since it was originally finished. Local African communities are continually facing poverty and the physical landscape is still negatively affected by the dam, even fifty years later. Is it possible for these conditions to change? Who would have to strongly be involved to generate positive, sustainable change for the local communities? These chapters are interesting because they bring the reader from the start of the operation to fifty years after completion, while shedding light on those most strongly impacted. This example should be used by future dam builders and the like, to assess what went wrong, in terms of affecting local communities, and what can be improved upon.


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