Understanding Impoverishment: The Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

with broad policy relevance internationally. In effect, resistance to resettlement has helped to frame the entire contemporary debate on development, the environment and human rights, a debate that shows considerable signs of expanding and of gaining increasing relevance to both national development and human-rights policy as well as international standards.

The linkage of two global movements, environmentalism and human rights, with the resistance of people threatened with relocation or suffering from poorly implemented resettlement, has begun a rethinking of the relationship between human beings and places on the earth and the rights that pertain thereto. This re-examination entails a critique not only of the model of development that accepts the necessity of relocating people for national priorities, but also a questioning of the scale of development interventions that create major disruption for both people and environment. As Adam Curle in discussing the removal of the Chakmas for Kaptai Dam in Bangladesh so succinctly puts it, there is '... a moral problem. How much suffering for how many can be justified by how much good for how many?' (1971:105). Further, the discourse that addresses these issues implicitly and explicitly has drawn into debate a reassessment of the extent of state sovereignty ( Downing and Kushner 1988).


Conclusion

The centre of the discussion on the environment has shifted from an exclusive focus on the destruction wrought by human beings on the natural world to an exploration of a sustainable relationship between human needs and the earth's resources ( Redclift 1987). In this discussion the industrialised world is portrayed as developing through an unsustainable, environmentally destructive relationship with the environment, consuming non-renewable resources, creating non- absorbable toxic by-products and intervening in non-reversible ways in the various systems and cycles that ensure the renewability of the ecosystem. In the discussion of sustainable forms of human intervention, certain local economies in the non-industrialised world have been explored as examples of low-impact systems on the ecosystem at the same time that greater credence has begun to be given to indigenous voices in the development dialogue. This emerging discussion has found abundant material among the communities that are threatened with or have been subjected to resettlement. The construction of a large hydro-electric project in a rural area juxtaposes dramatically the two approaches to resource use and their constituents.

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