Understanding Impoverishment: The Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

the projects is not possible under prevailing circumstances, and that the environmental impacts of the projects have not been properly considered or adequately addressed' (Ibid.:xii).

The resistance against the Narmada Dam was successful in that, like the Altamira example, it combined local protest with international campaigning, bringing together human-rights, indigenousrights and environmental organisations through an alliance which reached governments and the World Bank. The Morse Commission and its report was a major breakthrough, although the initial reaction of the Bank was to reject its findings and ignore its recommendations. Eventually, however, the Indian government officially requested the Bank to withdraw in 1993. In spite of the World Bank's withdrawal however, the Indian government has not stopped its commitment to the dam and the scheme in the valley as a whole. Thus, the resistance was successful but the results came too late: the dam was completed and on 23 February 1994, the sluice gates were closed. The local people refused to move and resistance continues with victims willing to sacrifice their lives for their lands and communities.

Nevertheless, the Morse Report had several repercussions within the Bank. It was partially responsible for the review which the Bank carried out on involuntary resettlement which came out in 1994 and the establishment of an Inspection Panel which queried the controversial Arun III Dam in Nepal at the end of 1994. In India, according to campaigners, the withdrawal of the Bank has left open a political space for lobbying which did not previously exist. The legitimation which the Bank gave to the project has been removed, and the potential for legal redress for the victims has increased. India, perhaps, is the example which shows that the presence of the Bank does not always ensure that victims face the 'least bad' options.


Conclusion

This chapter has looked at the problems arising from the involuntary resettlement of indigenous peoples as a result of the construction of large dams. Two approaches have been compared in the discussion.

The first takes as its starting point the fact that development projects are inevitable and that the only way to help indigenous peoples faced with involuntary resettlement is to carry out the process as smoothly, efficiently and fairly as possible. In this way the effects will be mitigated and impoverishment avoided. This is the position of the World Bank analysts who see their approach as a reasonable position, midway between those (usually NGO s) who argue that dams should

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