Understanding Impoverishment: The Consequences of Development-Induced Displacement

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

9
Mediation or Self-Management
LARGE DAMS, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
AND ETHNICITY

Alicia M. Barabas and Miguel A. Bartolomé

T ens of millions of people have been uprooted and resettled as a consequence of infrastructure development projects over the past decade. Mexico's own national development strategy includes huge hydro-power and dam-construction projects designed to increase the country's electricity-generating potential, whilst attracting international aid and investment and at the same time installing monuments to politicians in power. Such grandiose hydro-electric schemes are aimed, theoretically, at improving the conditions of life and opportunities of Mexican citizens. In reality, however, local populations usually do not receive tangible benefits from those works and quite often become the victims of progress.

The fact that the displacement of populations implies a critical social cost has been generally disregarded by state bodies in charge of national development. In Mexico this situation has generated interactive processes marked by structural conflicts between the agencies responsible for the works and the affected populations.

One of the most frequent outcomes of social conflict has been the emergence of protest movements opposing dam construction. Initially, resistance movements were regarded as part of a transitional process, played out against national interests by populations manipulated or patronised by parties or other political organisations. However, it is the persistence of resistance to certain planned developments that compels consideration within the general framework of

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