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Concrete RevolutionLarge Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation$
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Christopher Sneddon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226284316

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226284453.001.0001

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Large Dams and the Contemporary Geopolitics of Development

Large Dams and the Contemporary Geopolitics of Development

(p.125) Six Large Dams and the Contemporary Geopolitics of Development
Concrete Revolution

Christopher Sneddon

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the contemporary geopolitics of large dams, asking to what extent can the lessons of the Bureau’s overseas endeavors be applied within current debates over large dams, water development and world politics. In the current era, the Global South is confronted with a plethora of reinvigorated plans for infrastructure development on major river basins including, for example, the Mekong, the Blue Nile and the Amazon regions. The global dam industry and the proponents of large-scale water infrastructure (including the World Bank) have championed hydropower development as a renewable and clean alternative to fossil fuels, although many scientists have reservations about these claims. China’s emerging role as global financier of large hydroelectric dams, particularly in Africa, demonstrates that the linkages among economic development, technical assistance and geopolitics remain highly relevant to understanding world politics and the geographic transformations brought about through altered rivers. This chapter also proposes a “new” political ecology of large dams and river basin development that accounts for the changing geopolitical and environmental circumstances of the 21st century. A geopolitical analysis of dams enriches explanations of their continued salience to governments as developmental engines and the emergence of a globally influential anti-dam social movement.

Keywords:   development, foreign aid, geopolitics, hydropower, political ecology, renewable energy, social movement, World Bank

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