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Wesleyan College

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Nepal: Development and Social Change


On the Saptakoshi River in Nepal, the proposed construction of a hydropower dam may represent progress for parts of the country but loss for local communities. This paper draws on the experiences of people living in villages by the river who will be affected if the proposed high dam is built. By using qualitative information generated from interviews with villagers, the paper is an ethnographic account of the experiences and perspectives of the local populations that will be most directly affected by the dam. It was found that most subjects interviewed believe that the high dam would cause extreme environmental, cultural, and religious loss for Nepal and would result in more disadvantages than benefits. Due to trauma from past floods and distrust of the government’s promises of compensation, there is a strong fear of the dam project and many people are planning actions to resist. The paper explores the importance of the river to the affected communities, followed by a discussion of the ways in which local communities believe they will be affected by the dam, examining both perceived benefits and drawbacks of the project. The paper then examines the methods of anti-dam resistance, with a focus on the demands for and perceptions of compensation. Finally, the paper analyzes the beliefs about local wellbeing in relation to the greater good of Nepal and discusses the challenges faced by communities interacting with large-scale development projects.


Anthropology | Environmental Health and Protection | Natural Resources and Conservation


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