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Equitable and Sustainable Development in SEA II: Communities & Networks

1330–1500, Saturday 16 April 2016, L5

Chair:
Pia Joliffe
University of Oxford
pia.jolliffe@bfriars.ox.ac.uk

List of Papers:

  • Paper 1: Investigating Ex-Ante Resettlement Impacts and the Social Costs of Uncertainty: The Case of Thailand’s Kaeng Sue Ten Dam
  • Paper 2: Maintaining Fluidity, Demanding Clarity: Mentawaian’s Land Relations in Siberut Island, West Sumatra
  • Paper 3: Gender Politics of Development: A Case of Highland Sustainable Tourism in Thailand
  • Paper 4: Enough is never enough: perverse incentives in Southeast Asian irrigation development

Paper 1: Investigating Ex-Ante Resettlement Impacts and the Social Costs of Uncertainty: The Case of Thailand’s Kaeng Sue Ten Dam

Julian Kirchherr
University of Oxford
julian.kirchherr@sant.ox.ac.uk

Scholarly research on dams’ social impacts traditionally focuses on ex-post resettlement impacts; ex-ante resettlement impacts are largely ignored. In order to explore these impacts, particularly the social costs of uncertainty during the planning and design phase of a dam project, we have carried out research in two villages in northern Thailand. Those living in these villages have been fearing relocation because of the Kaeng Sue Ten Dam project for at least 35 years. We find that 78 percent of those interviewed report extreme levels of stress induced by the project; even suicides that occurred in the villages are associated with it. Furthermore, we find the government withholds infrastructure investments in the villages at question. Indeed, the villages were blacklisted from any infrastructure investment for more than 10 years. We also find evidence that villagers are postponing major private investments due to the uncertainty induced by the project. In addition, various land speculations took place, initiated by outside investors. Lastly, maintaining the sophisticated system of protest developed by the villagers, including a 24/7-monitoring of the possible dam site, regular protests against the project in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thai Baan research as well as spiritual activities, requires significant time and financial investments. Our research ought to broaden the perspective on the social impact of dams to the phase prior to resettlement. We particularly hope to raise awareness regarding the significant negative social impacts that can be induced by a dam project at the very initial planning and design stage.

 

Paper 2: Maintaining Fluidity, Demanding Clarity: Mentawaian’s Land Relations in Siberut Island, West Sumatra

Darmanto Darmanto
Leiden University
darmantosimaepa@yahoo.com

My paper examines land relations among Mentawaian, the Indigenous people of Siberut Island, West Sumatra. My finding do not find a consistent ‘rule’ or legal principle for arrangement of access and rights to land, which is generally assumed in the discourse of customary rights or customary tenure. The determination of rights and access has generally been tied to vertical social relations with ancestors and horizontal relations with others through exchanges of gifts. Given Siberut is a small island ecosystem on which territory is fixed, un-extendable, and immovable, Mentawaian deploy a set of social practices that brings and inserts an element of flexibility and fluidity land relations. Land access to land are subject of contestation and require both concrete and imaginative actions, a way of seeing self and others. Shifting social alliance, finding new stories of ancestors, introducing economic value would bring land and its boundaries into being, rights into existence, and claims into valid. The absence of a rigid ‘rule’ or legal framework is necessary for continual readjustment of land arrangement following shifting social-political alignment and economic valuation. One implication is that the legal approach under customary rights discourse is inadequate to analyse the dynamic of land relations. Another is that any attempt to construct Mentawaian land relations through legal framework has possibility introducing an artificial system. Consequently, in contrast to NGOs and District Government’ programs to clarify, codify, and formalize “customary practices” assuming fixed and clear determination of rights and access to land is possible, a fluid and ambiguous land access is the best for Mentawaian.

 

Paper 3: Gender Politics of Development: A Case of Highland Sustainable Tourism in Thailand

Nisanee Chaiprakobwiriya
University of Leeds
nisanee.c@gmail.com

This paper explores the gendered politics of development in the context of highland sustainable tourism. The consequences of the Cold War’s development for security in the borderlands of Southeast Asia have opened a gateway to aid flows from various parties, including foreign donors, states, the market and NGOs. Due to the negative impact of mass tourism on the environment and local communities, sustainable tourism has become both an alternative kind of travel and a popularised tool of community development in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. It thus represents a development process that engages tour companies, NGOs and the tourism authority responsible for linking tourists to the remote highland communities. By ignoring the contextual elements of diverse gender relations, mainstream development interventions often treat women in developing countries as ‘objects’ of development that need to be rescued. In a similar fashion, the brokers in the sustainable tourism industry tend to influence the process of repackaging the image of highland or minority women as exotic yet underprivileged and submissive housewives. Therefore, highland sustainable tourism provides a space for various parties to interact, create and design power and gender dynamics. This paper argues that as a development project, sustainable tourism may pose constraints on highland gender relations and the status of women. Drawing on fieldwork in Karen communities in northern Thailand, this paper explore impact of sustainable tourism on Karen gender identities in a village located in national park area.

 

Paper 4: Enough is never enough: perverse incentives in Southeast Asian irrigation development

David Blake
Independent scholar
djhblake@yahoo.co.uk

The phenomenon of perverse incentives, including economic and other forms, acting as an underlying driver of irrigation development has been widely recognized for years, in the context of both developed and developing nations (e.g. Reisner, 1986; Postel, 1999; Molle, 2008). It has been estimated that worldwide irrigation subsidies amount to $33 billion per annum (Myers and Kent, 2001), a figure almost certainly an underestimate of the full costs if environmental degradation, resettlement and multiple social impacts, plus increased water-borne disease from irrigation were factored in. Across peninsular Southeast Asia, irrigation development has become the near exclusive preserve of state hydraulic bureaucracies exercising pre-eminent domain over water resources, with a secondary supporting role for international development agencies, civil society and the private sector. This paper draws on case studies from Thailand and Cambodia to examine the nature of perverse incentives for irrigation development and addresses questions about their impact on societal power relations and equity, in particular the interests of elite groups are furthered vis à vis those of supposed beneficiary groups. Informed by political ecology approaches, it considers the direct and indirect subsidies, the narratives used to justify them and their impacts on society and the environment, across a range of scales. It argues that irrigation is a unique category of public infrastructure in the ways that it appeals to a sense of patriotism, progress and nation building in the continual drive to irrigate more land, allowing perverse subsidies to flourish.