Environmental justice and the long-term impacts of large dam projects : a case study of communities displaced by the Inanda dam, Durban.
Ninela, Phillip G.
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Inanda Dam situated near Durban in the Mngeni River, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal was completed in the late 1980s. As a typical large dam of the modern era, one major impact of the dam was the displacement and resettlement of over 1300 rural households living under communal ("tribal") tenure. Households were relocated to different places some kilometres away from their original places. These new relocation areas, where different tenure and other arrangements prevailed, then became their permanent residential location. This study was initiated to investigate two key issues. It sought to understand how the relocation altered the quality of life of removed families. It also sought to explore adaptation strategies adopted by the settlers and constraints to effective adaptation. Primary data were collected by means of in-depth interviews and direct observation of certain indicators of quality of life in the study area, over a period of five months. Fourteen households participated in the study. Simple quantitative methods were used to supplement the overall qualitative research design. Because of the small sample that was used, the study is perhaps not widely generalizable. However the study does provide insights into the long-term impacts of this inadequately mitigated displacement. It is also a case study of the nature of long-term environmental injustice and disruption associated with the construction of large dams. This is an injustice made worse by the political system of apartheid prevailing when the dam was planned and built. The general findings are that the dam did impact negatively on the quality of life of the displaced families. Thirteen years after compulsory relocation, the quality of life of several families has deteriorated instead of slowly improving. While the process of adaptation for some families has been easy, other families are still battling to reconstruct their livelihoods and quality of life. Where benefits of access to services such as potable piped water and electricity are enjoyed, these benefits are overshadowed by inability to pay and lack of access to other goods such as proper housing and adequate land. Loss of access to common property resources has meant a shift towards more money-based livelihood generation strategies. Constraints to adaptation are both internal and external. Low levels of socioeconomic status, poor access to environmental resources and the unfavourable political conditions in the relocation areas are some of the major constraints to effective adaptation. While the individual and group coping strategies employed have assisted families in the adaptation process, it is argued that the inadequacy of state support mechanisms significantly retarded the ability of households to adapt to life in the relocation areas.