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Accepted Paper:

Are large-scale hydroelectric dams inherently undemocratic?  


Maria Alejandra Garcia (Michigan State University)
Laura Castro-Diaz (Michigan State University)
Sergio Villamayor-Tomas (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
maria lopez (Michigan State University)

Paper short abstract:

Resettlement policies of hydroelectric dams have deficits in citizen participation in the Global South. We use fsQCA to explain participation deficits in dam projects. Dams under autocracies before the WCD and largest dams with high political interest under democracies have deficits in participation

Paper long abstract:

Construction of large-scale hydroelectric dams has increased in recent decades in the Global South. One of the most severe socioeconomic impacts caused by dam construction is population resettlement, and policies aiming to mitigate and restore livelihoods are often described as inadequate. The resettlement policies' ineffectiveness could be explained by persistent citizen participation deficiency. We conducted a medium-N comparative study showing sufficient pathways to explain the deficiency of participation across 23 large-scale hydroelectric dams in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. We focus on one project characteristic and four political conditions including: national political regime, World Commission on Dams (WCD) report, and forms of public opposition. We conducted a fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) based on information from a qualitative meta-analysis and secondary sources. Our results suggest that there are at least three pathways to explain deficiency in participation. The first two pathways include dams constructed under autocracies. Most of these dams were built before the publication of the WCD report. Thus, an autocratic national regime combined with a historical moment before the WCD, is sufficient for resettlement policies having a deficiency in participation. The third pathway involves the largest dams, with high economic and political interests at stake built under autocratic and democratic regimes, disregardless of the WCD report. In this article, we discuss features that make large hydroelectric dams inherently undemocratic.

Panel P12
The World Commission on Dams +20 years - revisiting dams, decision-making and development