Understanding Impoverishment: The Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

6
Indigenous Resistance
to Involuntary Relocation

Andrew Gray

Involuntary relocation, as detailed in a number of chapters in this volume, causes countless problems for local communities. Economies are destroyed and production activities disrupted, giving rise to impoverishment, while social and cultural disintegration along with psychological stress lead to sickness and even death ( Hallward 1992:44). Those who work with involuntary resettlement programmes testify to their deleterious effects: 'From the perspective of the displaced people, forced resettlement is always a disaster' ( Partridge 1989:375).

Even though well-documented evidence demonstrates the harm caused to the victims of resettlement, enormous numbers of people continue to be relocated every year to make way for development projects. The 1994 World Bank review of projects involving involuntary resettlement ( World Bank 1994a:i) puts the current figure as high as four million people. Particularly problematic in this context is resettlement as a result of the construction of dams. According to Cernea ( 1990b:332), each year between 1.2 and 2.1 million people are relocated involuntarily as result of hydro-electric dam projects.

Dams have long been the subject of criticism on both environmental and social grounds ( Goldsmith and Hildyard 1984). Non- governmental organisations, such as the International Rivers Network and their publication World Rivers Review, the Ecologist, the Environmental Defense Fund and countless other institutions keep abreast of developments through active monitoring and campaign-

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