Accepted paper:

Global discourses and local impacts; hydropower governance in Darjeeling Himalayas

Authors:

Rinchen Lama (University of Reading)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I scrutinize the environmental governance processes in the decision-making and practices of acquisition of land and manufacturing of local consent towards hydropower development in Darjeeling to reveal how global climate change discourses exacerbate local vulnerabilities

Paper long abstract:

The global emphasis on climate change has reframed the debate of the costs and benefits of hydropower dams as green development, especially in developing countries. Although the current global debate on hydropower dams are driven by discourses of clean energy, at the national and regional level, these projects are pursued to meet objectives of national economic growth. In India, the national drive for energy security has prompted a rapid expansion of hydropower development into isolated and parts of the Himalayas, previously sidelined by mainstream development. This is occurring against a backdrop of political conflict, poverty, widespread dependence on natural resources and degenerating ecosystems. The large-scale socio-ecological transformation of the region has become a contested governance arena. In this paper, I scrutinize the environmental governance processes in the decision-making and practices of acquisition of land and manufacturing of local consent towards hydropower development in Darjeeling. I demonstrate that hydropower development discourse ends up declaring local subsistence activities illegal while denying existing crucial questions about non-recognition of land and forest rights to reveal divergence between global, national and local priorities. Based on a qualitative methodological approach involving interviews with affected communities, historical document reviews, and field observations, I analyse the processes of contemporary hydropower development within the historical trajectory and contemporary processes of shifting resource regimes and injustices in the region through the conceptual frame of territoriality. This study demonstrates how hydropower development overlay with complex, contextual dimensions and contributes to questioning how global climate change discourses exacerbate local vulnerabilities.

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Dams, development & decision-making [paper]