Field Initiative 8. Cambodia

Social and Environmental Impact of Hydropower Dams and Large-scale Industrial Tree Plantations in in northeastern Cambodia

Project Coordinator: Ian G. Baird, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Associate Professor of Geography.

Hydropower dams have recently been reframed as “green projects”, since they produce electricity that can replace energy produced by coal-fired power plants. However, hydropower dams have devastating impacts on local livelihoods and wild capture fisheries, as well as aquatic ecologies. Furthermore, plantation projects often advertise themselves as reforestation projects, ones that can sequester carbon and reduce the impacts of climate change. Yet these same projects have adverse effects on biodiversity, and on local forest-based livelihoods. This field initiative will investigate the effects of global narratives associated with human-induced climate change in Stung Treng Province in northeastern Cambodia, and study the scalar tensions that frequently emerge between different environmental narratives and practices. We will specifically examine the Lower Sesan 2 dam, and large-scale rubber plantations developed in the vicinity. We ask: how do global climate change narratives and associated practices affect or displace localized concerns about dams and plantations? How do global and local narratives interact with each other? What are the political and economic implications of different priorities, including those related to financing? How are the socio-ecological impacts of human-induced climate change and hydropower dams and plantation development articulated and understood at varying scales and at different times?

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