Hydropower Dams case studies

Wednesday 27 April 2016
1.00 - 2.00pm

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Madsen Rm 449, Madsen Building, Eastern Ave, The University of Sydney


Explore current innovations in geographical research and cutting edge trends in socio- spatial theory throughout this seminar series.

Geographers and the Environment 

Danny Marks (Geosciences post-grad)
Title: Circuits of Power: Environmental Injustice from Bangkok’s Shopping Malls to Hydropower Dams in Laos

Saskia Sassen argues that there is a need to conduct more research on “the geography of the environmental damages [a city] produces” and to raise consciousness of this damage by “by making visible the multiple components of those geographies” (Sassen 2011). In particular, she calls for this research to include the dimensions of power, inequality, and social justice.  In this paper, I attempt to help fill this gap by using a case study from the Lower Mekong Region.  Bangkok’s ever-expanding energy demand coupled with the political economy of the Thai energy sector is contributing to unequal environmental and social changes far away from Bangkok in the Mekong River Basin, particularly through the expansion of hydropower dams in Thailand’s neighbors, especially Laos. Bangkok consumes about a quarter of the country’s electricity and its big malls consume more than some of the country’s smaller rural provinces.  Simultaneously, the city’s ever-increasing energy demand is driven by urban residential expansion on the peripheries within Bangkok but also in surrounding provinces. This expansion is mostly in the form of townhouses and detached housing.  The paper uses case studies of Xayaburi Dam, which is currently being built, and the proposed Don Sahang Dam, the construction of which is expected to begin at the end of this year. Both dams are on the Mekong mainstream and most of the energy generated from them will be exported to Thailand.  In this paper, I seek to tease out the geographies of environmental injustice which are being perpetuated due to the political ecology of Bangkok’s rising energy demand and to show how the metabolism of cities changes “natures” in the hinterlands

Danny Marks  holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Grinnell College in Iowa and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. His doctoral research examines the political economy of the 2011 flooding in Bangkok from multi-scalar and multi-temporal perspectives, focusing on the processes which created uneven impacts of the flooding and on the role of the state in responding to the floods.
Danny has spent a number of years working in mainland Southeast Asia, particularly in the field of climate change adaptation. He has worked for the NGO Forum on Cambodia, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Governance Hub, and other organizations. In 2010, funded by the David L. Boren Fellowship, he conducted research at the Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) of Chulalongkorn University on the impacts of climate change on Thailand and Thailand’s climate change policy process.

Ming Li Yong (Geosciences post-grad)
Title: Translocal assemblages of governance and hydropower development in the Lower Mekong River Basin

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s decisions to go ahead with the construction of two hydropower dams on the mainstream of the transboundary Mekong River have been a cause of alarm to its neighbouring countries, as potential and understudied transboundary impacts could threaten livelihoods and food security across the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) comprising Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The regional intergovernmental procedures governing the development of projects with potential transboundary impacts were triggered for the first time and came under fierce criticism for their ineffectiveness, but at the same time also opened up avenues for affected villagers and civil society to challenge decision-making processes. Understanding how practices within the translocal and emergent assemblages constituting these governance processes, with a focus on Thailand and Cambodia, will aid in recognising how they either limit or enable public participation in the transboundary decision-making arenas of the LMB. This presentation will give a brief overview of my proposed research project, including the research objectives, conceptual framework, and methodology.

Ming Li’s research interests are in the environmental politics arising from hydropower development on the Mekong River. Her PhD research will look at the responses and strategies that selected Lower Mekong Basin riparian communities employ within and across national boundaries, in their efforts to avert the potentially damaging transboundary social, economic, and cultural impacts of mainstream hydropower development.

Ming Li holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences and a Master of Social Sciences from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Her Masters thesis titled “Rethinking the Mekong River as a Common Pool Resource: The Territorialisation of Nature in Chiang Khong, Thailand” was awarded by NUS the Wang Gungwu Medal and Prize for the Best Masters Thesis in the Social Sciences/Humanities.
She is a recipient of the International Postgraduate Research Scholarship and the Australian Postgraduate Award.


Upcoming in the Series

Wednesday May 4th | 1 – 2.00pm
Assoc. Prof Kurt Iveson (Geosciences) & Prof. Robyn Dowling (USYD) | Digital disruptions and transport

Wednesday May 11th | 1 – 2.00pm
Xiao Jiang Yu (Geosciences) | The western development strategy and environment in southwest China: a case of Guizhou

Wednesday May 18th | 1 – 2.00pm
Prof. Bill Pritchard (Geosciences) | Should we aspire to a society that is food secure, or a society of food-sovereign consumers?

Wednesday May 25th | 1 – 2.00pm
Kirsten Jenkins (University of St Andrews) | What is energy justice? Lessons from the nuclear fuel cycle in Canada, the UK and Australia

Wednesday June 1st  | 1 – 2.00pm
Leonardo Valenzuela (Geosciences post-grad) | Moralscapes of the Anthropocene
Billy Haworth (Geosciences post-grad) | Assessing the potential, application, & implications of volunteered geographic information in disaster risk reduction

Wednesday June 8th | 1 – 2.00pm
Alistair Sisson (Geosciences post-grad) | Night-Time Economy stigmatisation: a case study of Northbridge, Western Australia

Wednesday June 15 | 1 – 2.00pm