Accepted paper:

Hydropower conflicts in the resource frontier: how local communities resist Chinese hydropower projects

Authors:

Oliver Hensengerth (Northumbria University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses contestation over Chinese-invested dams in the Mekong basin, using concepts of the resource frontier, critical regionalism and alternative regionalism to focus on the agency of local communities to safeguard local ecosystems which are integral to their livelihoods.

Paper long abstract:

The stylisation of Laos, Cambodia and other developing countries as "resource frontier" countries has brought into focus the increasingly fierce battle between local communities, national governments and multinational financiers and construction companies over large hydropower dams. In Chinese-invested hydropower projects, local communities resisting such projects face a complex multi-level structure composed of Chinese construction companies and financiers, national governments, and local governments pushing large hydropower dams for national economic development justified by a global clean energy discourse. This discourse has seen the creation of global institutions, most significantly the Kyoto Protocol under whose CDM mechanisms large hydropower projects can be registered. Conversely, local communities face loss of their livelihoods through the destruction of local socio-natural systems. The consequence are scalar trade-offs, competing development goals, and conflicting environmental protection goals between global, national and local scales. The paper analyses the processes of contestation around Chinese-invested dams in the Mekong basin, using the political ecology concept of the resource frontier in combination with the concepts of critical regionalism and alternative regionalism. This allows an analytical focus on the agency of local communities and their resistance strategies in an attempt to safeguard local ecosystems which are integral to their livelihoods.

panel P69
Political ecology of rising China (roundtable format)