Week 9 Blog Post

This week’s reading was the book Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development. The books focuses on the development of the Cahora Bassa Dam along the Zambezi River and how it drastically impacted the livelihoods of thousands of Africans. The authors explain that originally

colonial planners promoted information on the dam claiming that long term economic benefits would outweigh any short term “disruptions” (95). In promoting the project, colonists claimed that there would be positive socio-economic outcomes occurring as a result of the dam, when in reality, in developing the dam these outcomes were actually undermined. The planners claimed that this would lead to educating more children, however, the opposite is true. Isaacman and Isaacman discuss that without their spouses present after relocating, women relied on their children to help produce food preventing the children from attending school. The authors state that the colonial planners “underestimated the extent to which resettlement would shake the very foundations of the relocated communities” (95). Despite Mozambique achieving Independence in 1975 and the removal of barbed wire and guards securitizing the location, families were still unable to return to their previous homes because the area was now under water. Their only option was to remain where they lived now.

According to the authors, colonial planners asserted that the dam was about using technology to control nature and ensure human progression. The authors discuss that the accounts given did not articulate this but did the opposite. Many Africans lived in crowded camps, and encountered unpredictable discharges of water that destroyed their homes. From the personal accounts provided in the book,  nature was controlling where the people were allowed to live.

What planners were saying would occur with the dam was actually false predictions of what would actually occur.

Question 1: Did planners involved with the development of the Cahora Bassa Dam create the large infrastructure and remove people from their land in hopes of bringing positive social change or do you think the objectives they had in mind were only established to promote the dam?

Keira Gagne


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