I’m no expert on the pros and cons of hydroelectric power, but it seems like from an environmental perspective, there are strong arguments being made on both sides. I’m still not sure however, how hydroelectric power would provide a solutions to many of the problems cited as being immediate threat to biodiversity in Nepal. These included overpopulation, exploitation of fish and game animals, and unsustainable agricultural practices. True, I think that development in general tends to reduce these kinds of issues, but is hydroelectric power the best way to go about this? If the supposed goal is to benefit biodiversity, it seems important to take into account all of the new environmental threats (i.e. increased per-capita resource consumption) that come along with more developed nations. Without taking these new threats into account, World Bank could easily get away with greenwashing the project – claiming the goal is to benefit biodiversity when that isn’t actually the case. If there hasn’t yet been much of an attempt to conduct an in-depth empirical analysis of actual costs and benefits to biodiversity that would stem from the construction of these dams, it looks nearly impossible to assertively claim increased benefits one way or the other. (I think I’ve been well-trained in biology because my first approach to any problem has become to demand empirical data.) Of course it is probably quite costly to get decent approximation of the biodiversity loss from dam construction relative to the biodiversity loss from continued use of fossil fuels or forest wood in lieu of hydroelectric power. But I’m sure World Bank has the funds to cope. How we get them to actually use those funds is another matter. Widespread demand has encouraged the bank to put up a more ‘green’ front for the public, but according to Goldman the actual amount of real positive environmental change that this has resulted in is most questionable. Who is the much-needed watchdog for an organization as powerful as the world bank?
This week’s reading also left me once again questioning who is benefiting the most from development projects like the dams being constructed in Laos. I’d hazard a guess that it’s not the people being forced out of their homes. The story has an undeniably familiar ring to it. The rich investors intending to profit from a region’s natural resources are such a powerful force that many people are left displaced and essentially voiceless. But hey, this isn’t actually the same as all those other times in history when a powerful group of people forced thousands off of their land; we can all rest easy, reassured by ADB director Noritada Morita’s statement “Don’t call it resettlement. It is just migration.”