This content will become publicly available on February 15, 2023

Changes in Social Capital Associated with the Construction of the Belo Monte Dam: Comparing a Resettled and a Host Community
Nations in the Global South have increasingly embraced large hydropower. Hydropower development typically involves the displacement and resettlement of entire communities and has a range of social and ecological impacts. Some communities become the operational center for the dam construction, as well as host new neighborhoods of resettlers. One of the less-studied impacts of dams is the potential loss of social capital both in resettled and host communities. Here, we ask how the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon is associated with social capital in a resettled group and a non-resettled population that, while not experiencing resettlement, nevertheless was impacted by the dam as well. We use measures of cognitive and structural social capital. Results suggest that resettlers have lower structural social capital across two proxy indicators, whereas the host community has lower cognitive social capital. Future research and social impact assessments should pay more attention to how hydropower impacts both kinds of social capital.
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10349481
Journal Name:
Human Organization
Volume:
81
Issue:
1
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
22 to 34
ISSN:
0018-7259
Tackling climate change and human development challenges will require major global investments in renewable energy systems, including possibly into large hydropower. Despite well-known impacts of hydropower dams, most renewable energy assessments neither account for externalities of hydropower nor evaluate possible strategic alternatives. Here we demonstrate how integrating energy systems modeling and strategic hydropower planning can resolve conflicts between renewable energy and dam impacts on rivers. We apply these tools to Myanmar, whose rivers are the last free-flowing rivers of Asia, and where business-as-usual (BAU) plans call for up to 40 GW of new hydropower. We present alternative energy futures that rely more on scalable wind and solar, and less on hydropower (6.7–10.3 GW) than the BAU. Reduced reliance on hydropower allows us to use river basin models to strategically design dam portfolios for minimized impact. Thus, our alternative futures result in greatly reduced impacts on rivers in terms of sediment trapping and habitat fragmentation, and result in lower system costs ($8.4 billion compared to$11.7 billion for the BAU). Our results highlight specific opportunities for Myanmar but also demonstrate global techno-ecological synergies between climate action, equitable human development and conservation of riparian ecosystems and livelihoods.