BOOK CHAPTER: Branding Dams: Nam Theun 2 and its Role in Producing the Discourse of “Sustainable Hydropower”

DeadintheWater.jpg

Publication date:
June 2018

Publication:
Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos

Author:
Carl Middleton

Editors: Bruce Shoemaker and William Robichaud

For further details on the book please visit the book's website here.

In the 1990s, the global hydropower industry – in particular the industry of Northern countries – was facing a growing crisis of legitimacy. Opponents of large dams grew in numbers and became increasingly vocal, claiming that development benefits were exaggerated. This cumulated in the publication of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report in 2000, which affirmed many of the opponents’ criticisms.   In this context, the World Bank, seeking a means to once again finance large hydropower, put forward the Nam Theun 2 (NT2) hydropower project as a new, best-practice approach.  Meanwhile, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) sought to counter the WCD with its own sustainability guidelines in 2004 and subsequently a Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) launched in 2011. From this significant and combined effort of large am proponents emerged the policy discourse of “sustainable hydropower,” the purpose of which was to re-legitimize the industry.

This chapter deconstructs how NT2 has been discursively produced as a “brand” and woven in to the “sustainable hydropower” discourse. The chapter argues that in public the World Bank and the hydropower industry have regularly drawn on the NT2 as a model to legitimize their claim that “sustainable hydropower” can exist. Needless to say, this claim is fiercely disputed. Indeed, behind closed doors amongst the project’s proponents and in specialist hydropower industry conferences, more provisos and nuances are considered that bracket the public claims of success. The chapter also addresses how NT2 has been represented in regional and global debates on “sustainable hydropower,” for example in relation to the Hydropower Sustainabilty Assessment Protocol led by the International Hydropower Association. 

Please contact Dr. Carl Middleton for more information.

Citation: Middleton, C. (2018) "Chapter 13: Branding Dams: Nam Theun 2 and its Role in Producing the Discourse of 'Sustainable Hydropower'" (pp 271-292) in Shoemaker, B. and Robichaud, W. (eds.) Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos. University of Wisconsin Press: Madison.

 

BOOK CHAPTER: Chapter 2: Living with the flood: A political ecology of fishing, farming, and migration around Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

BOOK CHAPTER: Chapter 2: Living with the  flood: A political ecology of  fishing, farming, and migration around Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

This chapter shows how small-scale farmers and fishers around Tonle Sap Lake have been relatively resilient to flooding. However, changing flooding regimes have created more regular shocks for farmers, whilst declining fish stocks are increasing fishing households vulnerability. These flooding-related shocks and associated vulnerabilities link to the creation of debt for farmers and fishers, which influences the decision to send household members to migrate. Whether the incentive for migration is livelihood diversification or debt repayment, the influence of the Tonle Sap’s flood regime from year to year is significant as it is generative of the viability of farming and fishing livelihoods. Household livelihood viability and associated vulnerabilities, however, is in turn determined by social factors, such as the politics and contestations over access to resources in the village, as well as national level policies on fisheries and farming and transboundary water governance.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Chapter 5: Living with and against floods in Bangkok and Thailand's central plain

Publication date:
December 2017

Publication:
Living with Floods in a Mobile Southeast Asia: A Political Ecology of Vulnerability, Migration and Environmental Change

Authors:
Naruemon Thabchumpon and Narumon Arunotai

Editors:
Carl Middleton, Rebecca Elmhirst and Supang Chantavanich

For further details on the book and to purchase, please visit are Routledge Press.

For more information about our project Mobile political ecologies of Southeast Asia, please visit here and to view the full policy brief on the book's research, please visit here

In this chapter, Naruemon Thabchumpon and Narumon Arunotai present empirical research on the impacts of the major flood in 2011 in Thailand on three urban, one semi-urban and three rural communities. The chapter shows that whilst the rural communities are largely adapted to seasonal flooding, the 2011 flood increased vulnerability due to damage of property and livelihoods. In urban areas, communities were not well prepared and therefore were highly vulnerable. The chapter discusses the contentious politics of how vulnerability was exacerbated by government policy to protect core urban and industrial areas, leaving rural and suburban areas flooded. Thabchumpon and Arunotai nd that in the case studies selected the relationship between flooding and mobility is subtle. For example, some, but not all, rural migrants living in urban areas returned to their rural family homes, where living with floods was more feasible.

Please contact nthabchumpon@gmail.com for more information.

BOOK CHAPTER: Chapter 1: Migration and floods in Southeast Asia: A mobile political ecology of vulnerability, resilience and social justice

BOOK CHAPTER: Chapter 1: Migration and floods in Southeast Asia: A mobile political ecology of vulnerability, resilience and social justice

Flooding is a common experience in monsoonal regions of Southeast Asia, where diverse flood regimes have for centuries shaped agrarian and fisheries-based livelihoods. However, in recent public discourse, the link between flooding and migration is most often made with regard to catastrophic flood events. News images of frequent and intense weather-related flood events in the region’s low-lying megacity and delta regions in recent years has contributed to a perceived link between extreme environmental events and mass migration through displacement. Yet, this focus on mass displacement frames migration in largely negative terms. Mobility is seen as a failure of adaptation to a changing environment, with both trans-border and internal population mobility to some even regarded as a security issue.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Politics of knowledge, collective action and community empowerment in Health Impact Assessment in Thailand: The case of Khao Hinsorn

BOOK CHAPTER: Politics of knowledge, collective action and community empowerment in Health Impact Assessment in Thailand: The case of Khao Hinsorn

By Carl Middleton, Somporn Pengkam, and Areeya Tivasuradej

This chapter illustrates how the Khao Hinsorn community in Thailand have undertaken a CHIA as a means to challenge an expert-led EHIA that backs a proposed coal-fired power station near their community. Through the CHIA, the community successfully revealed analytical shortcomings in the EHIA, and in the process broadened the definition of legitimate knowledge considered within formal state-led decision-making processes. We argue that CHIA has emerged as an important and strategic collective action response in Thailand, which has contributed towards social learning and community empowerment, and thus enabled the contestation of unequal power relations within knowledge production with implications for social justice outcomes.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Water and Rivers" in the Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

BOOK CHAPTER: Water and Rivers" in the Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

By Carl Middleton

This chapter examines the transition from state-led hydrocracies to increasingly liberalized modes of water resources development in mainland Southeast Asia, with a focus on large hydropower dams on transboundary rivers. Access to, use of and control over water is highly politicized, and an increasingly diverse assemblage of public, private and civil society actors are involved in water governance.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Social Movement Resistance to Accumulation by Dispossession in Myanmar: A Case Study of the Ka Lone Htar Dam near the Dawei Special Economic Zone

BOOK CHAPTER: Social Movement Resistance to Accumulation by Dispossession in Myanmar: A Case Study of the Ka Lone Htar Dam near the Dawei Special Economic Zone

By Dr. Carl Middleton and Zaw Aung

The focus of this chapter is a water storage dam proposed at Ka Lone Htar village, located outside of the Dawei SEZ itself, intended to supply freshwater to the SEZ’s industries. If built, the dam would fully submerge the village consisting of 182 households, along with several thousand acres of plantations and natural forest. In response to the threat of dispossession and relocation, the Ka Lone Htar community members successfully mobilized and resisted the dam.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: A Case Study of the Xayaburi Dam, Laos

BOOK CHAPTER: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: A Case Study of the Xayaburi Dam, Laos

By Carl Middleton and Ashley Pritchard

In Southeast Asia, major transboundary rivers such as the Mekong River are central to the food security, livelihoods and culture of millions of people. An increasingly extensive program of large hydropower dam construction is underway in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to meet domestic electricity demand and for power export to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and China. 

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Book Chapter: Design Thinking Approaches to MA Internships

Book Chapter: Design Thinking Approaches to MA Internships

New ways of thinking about and tackling poverty are needed. One approach that has been proposed is innovation for inclusive development (IID), which has been defined as “innovation that reduces poverty and enables all groups of people, especially the poor and marginalized to participate in decision making, create and actualize opportunities, and equitably share in the benefits of development” (IDRC, 2013:5). This book chapter maps out approaches towards and the relationship between inclusiveness, innovation and development, and introduces a new Master-level module titled “Principles, Tools and Practices for Innovation for Inclusive Development (IID) in Southeast Asia” being taught on the MA in International Development Studies Program, Chulalongkorn University.

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