Saturday, April 25, 2009


I have been thinking a lot about how my experiences so far on Thailand's rivers relate to stuff back home. Here are a few of the comparisons/connections I've made:

In many ways, the dam-affected communities we have seen here are no different than dam-affected American towns in the 1900s. There are people in the Catskills STILL fighting in the courts for compensation, some 100 years after their property was lost. I wonder what came of all the people displaced in the creation of Arkansas' man-made lakes? Were they just as shunned and demoralized as these Thai communities? The communities in Arkansas were displaced before HIAs, EIAs, and other types of legal protections. These formal protections don't necessarily mean anything or protect anybody, but at least there is some recourse through the law.

On another note, the dam projects we've learned about are not so different from, say, Columbia's expansion into West Harlem. The same arguments are being made about development and "common good." The same rhetoric about displacement and compensation, the same tactics of eminent domain, lack of transparency, poor planning, and condescension are employed. Perhaps the same amount of money in bribes and embezzlement is changing hands. Is the Unites States really so different from Thailand in this regard? Is corruption less or just better hid? Or is it just as blatant and I have been living with rose-colored glasses?

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