Image credit: flickr user Axel Drainville, creative commons

Rupture—hydropower dams in Cambodia as “engines of extraction”

In early July 2020, Sarah Milne and Sango Mahanty presented a paper for a virtual conference entitled “Extraction: Tracing the veins”, co-hosted by Massey University’s Political Ecology Research Centre and Wageningen University’s Centre for Space, Pace and Society.

Drawing from our Cambodian cases, the paper examines hydropower dams as “engines of extraction”. Here we argue that dams—whether proposed, constructed or completed—generate deep and extensive processes of commodification and extraction. For example, alongside road building and the clearing of future reservoir areas, we observe wider processes of illegal logging and land transformation. Once the reservoir exists, then water and aquatic resources become new commodities too, attracting migrants and investors. Importantly, Cambodia’s hydropower dams feed the country’s vast shadow economy, in which land and timber rents enrich a small elite with connections to the ruling party.  With these dynamics in mind, we argue that Mainland Southeast Asia’s addiction to hydropower dams must be considered through this optic of extraction—especially for illicit financial flows.

 Conference panel, called “Green Extraction” found here

More in “Rupture”

Rupture—conceptualising nature-society transformation

Sango Mahanty explains how mega infrastructure projects such as hydropower are dramatically transforming nature and society in our region.

Introducing ‘Rupture: nature–society transformation in mainland Southeast Asia’

Studying structural reconfigurations of nature and society in the Mekong region and beyond.

One Response

  1. Vince Craig

    Thank you for this presentation. It is important to highlight the damage that these dams cause beyond the direct impact on the waterways. Cambodia has substantial potential for generating solar power – but the political forces supporting hydro development also appear to be obstructing solar development.

    0 Thumb up0Thumb down

    Reply

ADD YOUR COMMENT

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *