Hydropower Induced Displacement in Nepal
People throughout the world have been involuntarily displaced from their homelands to achieve development goals set by governments, ambitious profits envisioned by project developers, and improved standards of living desired by many people. Previous research on hydropower-related displacement in Nepal reveals that the living conditions of people displaced by hydropower projects have deteriorated after displacement. Drawing upon these findings, this thesis argues that the reasons for Nepal’s inability to protect the affectees of hydropower projects from their adverse effects can be understood by investigating the complex hydro affairs of Nepal that have occurred as a result of the politics occurring at different temporal and spatial scales, among a variety of actors, in different phases of hydropower projects. This thesis finds that the way hydropower induced displacement is dealt with currently in Nepal is the result of how the government, funding agencies, project developers, civil society, and affectees have addressed this issue over time. Drawing on the case of the proposed West Seti Hydropower Project (WSHP) and the experience of Nepal in handling the involuntary displacement induced by previous hydropower projects, this research assesses three aspects of displacement in Nepal: i) the impact on local communities, situated in a hydropower project area, of prospective displacement prior to the project’s construction, especially when trapped in a long gestation period; ii) the politics occurring at different scales after the announcement of a hydropower project that will induce displacement; and iii) the government’s response to the resistance against such projects by different actors, and its role in developing and refining involuntary displacement policies. This research has been conducted applying a qualitative research methodology. In-depth interviews were carried out to gain information from a wide range of stakeholders located at local, regional, and national scales. The research reveals that the existing literature and policies do not consider the impacts that occur during long gestation periods of proposed hydropower projects, and that significant psychological, development and social impacts ensue during the pre-implementation phase of such projects. The study also demonstrates that multiple actors across multiple scales attempt to influence the government’s decisions as per their interest from the inception of the project. In this process, the actors scale the issues down, up, and out. The study also reveals that cooperation and interaction among actors across the scales plays a significant role in influencing and pressuring the government and project developers to change or modify their decisions. Finally, the thesis argues that in the absence of serious commitment from the government, the attempts of affectees, civil society, and external agents have contributed only to slow progress towards refining a policy around involuntary displacement. In making these arguments, the thesis has relevance for the understanding of development in contemporary Nepal, as well as making an important contribution to the bourgeoning literature on involuntary displacement.
Advisor: Hill, Douglas; Morgan, Richard
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Displacement; Hydropower; Nepal; Civil-Society; West-Seti
Research Type: Thesis