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Dam Construction

DAMned future

Dams are supposed to be our future since they produce energie without the unwanted waste products. Waste products are all those that could harm our nature. They are products which one can scientifically research and learn how to minimise their negative environmental effects. Only waste products which are not of “social importance” are frequently ignored and declared unimportant by those who actually have the power to decide. These people believe that social factors, such as displacement, can easily be pontificated through arguments on dams to create „new jobs“, „mitigate hunger“ and help the „economic development of a country“, etc.

However, social-emotional factores cannot be easily repressed anymore as the latest incident in Thailand demonstrates, as villagers from 8 different provinces at the Mekong want to take the government to court. The Thai government is planning a dam construction in the neighbouring state Laos whereby the newly Xayaburi dam construction along the Mekong is supposed to export 95% of its produced energy to Thailand. Whereas Laos has high expectations of economic growth with the dam construction, Thailand is aiming at securing its energy supply (although only 6% of its energy demand can be covered by the dam). (source: “Thai villagers to fight Lao Mekong dam in court” auf eco-business.com)

The Xayaburi dam could have a devastating impact on fishing, agriculture and the livelihood of millions of people who live at the Mekong. Due to Chinese dams people already experience poor harvests and few catches of fish. The Mekong river flows through 6 Asian states, Cambodia and Vietnam (direct neighbours of Laos) already fear the possible negative impacts on their states because of the planned construction of several dams.

The Mekong states have not signed a treaty on water and river control, unlike Pakistan and India that have been relying on such treaties since the 1960s. Since India and Pakistan are in conflict over their water resources since the 1990s due to India’s dam construction plans which could have a serious impact on the water supply of the Indus in Pakistan, it is questionable whether such treaties are helpful at all. The implemented treaty of the 1960s restricted  the building of spillway gates. India argued that their new dams would be built without these gates and therefore they would not constitute an infringement of the existing agreement. As a result, the dams were built. (sources: The National, The New York Times and Time World)

At the Mekong the livelihood and land of indigenious people are at risk to be destroyed by the  construction of dams. Peoples of the Amazonas also face the destruction of their homeland due to the Belo Monte dam construction in Brazil. As a result, they have been protesting against the construction of the Belo Monte for serveral years. The construction of this dam was already planned in the 1980s, however stopped at the very last second because of protests. Nevertheless the project never was entirely forgotten and remained in discussion. Now it shall be realised and people are demonstrating worldwide against the dam construction because of its possible devasting effects on indigenous peoples and the ecosystem (e.g. on amazonwatch.org). (sources: survivalinternational.de, BBC News and HuffingtonPost)

The mentioned dams are a threat not only to the livelihood of peoples which live at the river but also to villages which have to be dislocated. In order to build the dam regions are widely flooded – often in regions in which had lived people before.

In the best case scenario people who have been displaced get a material/financial compensation. The compensation is rarely enough to establish a similar living standard as before the displacement. Initiators who implement these projects (might) prefer not to think about a possible emotional compensation.

Recent history (Brazil and Thailand) has shown that great projects have to integrate a bigger and wider audience in the planning process right from the beginning. Nowadays not only the economic factores are the most important ones but also the side effects, such as possible social disruptions, displacement and relocation! How companies and politics will handle this in future remains open. Being postponed (because of protests and legal pursuits) does not mean that a project is cancelled.

YoutTube – Tensions rise over Indian dam – 24 Sept 08




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