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Title: Drivers and enablers of hydropower development in the Lao PDR : the political ecology of Mekong riparians, investors and the environment
Author: Matthews, Nathanial Albert
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The study has employed a political ecology approach to analyse what is driving and enabling the rapid pace of hydropower development in the Lao PDR. The Lao PDR is the focus of the study but it has been necessary to marshal evidence from the entire Mekong Basin because the asymmetric international politics of the basin shape the drivers and enablers. The Mekong Basin is currently experiencing rapid social, economic and ecological change. Hydropower is a key component. Lao PDR is at the centre of the Basin’s hydropower development. The research employs political ecology to critique the narratives, mechanisms, and power relationships and agendas that drive and enable hydropower development. The meso-scale analysis highlights the links between the political, economic and social mechanisms, macro-political economic forces and local level environmental and social change. Recent and current phases of investment and development over the last two decades are analysed. The research methods include interviews with key informants, document analysis and participant observation. Evidence from case studies across Lao PDR is employed together with the case study of the Xayaburi dam, the first mainstream dam in the Lower Basin. The study makes two original contributions. First, it examines the Xayaburi dam, which began construction in November 2012. Second, it is the first comprehensive, meso-scale, political ecology critique of hydropower development in the Lao PDR. Through its analysis the research provides extensive evidence of the mechanisms that drive and enable differences between the rhetoric and reality of hydropower development in Lao PDR. The research shows that the polarized debate surrounding hydropower, the outcome of which is so important for the future of the Mekong Basin and its peoples, has been constructed to allow contending actors to legitimize their own agendas. It will be shown that in many cases hydropower projects are built because they benefit international and regional elites. Their access to political power, corrupt practices, policy influence, the patronage of jobs and to regional control more generally come with serious consequences for the environment and for the livelihoods of much of the Basin’s population. These insights provide lessons learned that are relevant to global autocratic states developing their natural resources.
Supervisor: Mustafa, Daanish ; Bryant, Raymond Leslie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available