Dams have forced tens of millions people from their lands in the past six decades. Indigenous, tribal, and peasant communities have been particularly hard hit. These legions of dam refugees have, in the great majority of cases, been economically, culturally and psychologically devastated.
The trauma inflicted on displaced peoples is severe. To be wrenched from one’s home as a result of what seems to be an arbitrary and unjustifiable government action is especially difficult for isolated populations whose members (and their ancestors) have derived most of their support from local resources for as long as they can remember.
At most cases, the financial compensation being offered to local communities is not sufficient for a family to successfully begin a new life in a city, where life is substantially more expensive. Many in fact are being left with nothing. And many will be forced to relocate to surrounding cities, or other central cities risking isolation and impoverishment. Resettlement will tear families, clans and village communities apart, leaving them socially uprooted.
Those displaced by reservoirs are only the most visible victims of dams. Millions of more people have lost land and homes to the canals, irrigation schemes, roads, power lines and industrial developments that accompany dams. Many more have lost access to clean water, food sources and other natural resources in the dammed area.
The Belo Monte Dam in Brasil will force more than 20,000 people from their homes in the municipalities of Altamira and VitoriadoXingu. For the Xingu’s poor farmers, temporary employment created by the dam is not a viable replacement for lost agricultural lands and the river’s fish supply. Considered an “obstacle” to business interests, indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable.
Ilisu Dam project, if built, would cause the displacement of over 25,000 people who live on the Tigris River. The dam would also affect other communities that live and rely on the Tigris River, which flows through Mesopotamia all the way to the marshes of Basra in Iraq.