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Hydropower, together with the displacements, privatization and destruction of ecosystems caused by it, is only profitable because the social and environmental costs are not taken into account in the corporate estimations. And that may be exactly its weakest link, said Professor Carlos Vainer.
The struggle against megaprojects that privatize natural resources has turned into some kind of war of positions between the social movements and allied organizations and the transnational capital. But, who is leading?
The question was raised by Brazilian Carlos Vainer at the 3erd International Meeting of Dam-Affected People which took place in Temacapulin in Jalisco State, Mexico, in October.
Professor Vainer is Coordinator of the State, Work, Territory and Nature Lab at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, an institute that monitors these projects from an academic, but also committed and activist point of view.
Vainer went to Temaca as an adviser of the Movement of Dam-Affected People (MAB) from Brazil, the largest movement in Latin America and probably the world that works on these issues.
“The answer to this question is not the one I would like to give”, said Vainer. “I think we are losing, we haven´t been able to create an international movement strong enough to stop the building of dams”, he added.
“The good news is that the resistance is growing”, said Vainer, highlighting the growing presence of people and activists at International Meetings of Dam-Affected People, first in Curitiba, Brazil (1997), when there were practically no movements of resistance in Latin America, and up to the meeting in the Mexican city, in which one or even more movements per country participated.
To speak of a “water war” is common. However, how long will it be until this metaphor will turn into fact? Or, how long will it be until direct military interventions take place in countries with large water reservoirs in the South, being the Amazon an emblematic case?
“I see today conflicts over water in several places…which haven´t turned still into a global water war”, said Carlos Vainer. He also made reference to how the local elites have proven to be good allies of transnational capital which have been increasingly taking over this resource “without the need to invade”.
“One thing we can conclude is that when a farmer from Ecuador and an indigenous person from Philippines meet, and they are both resisting…they speak the same language”, said Vainer. And he added that an “international class struggle” is coming.
Even from a critical perspective to the process of water privatization we hear voices speaking of a matter of time. According to these opinions, the problem is technological, which will be solved when the energy matrix is modified.
Vainer doesn´t agree with this concept: “the technology issues are part of the class struggle”, he said, and makes reference to the process of destruction of machines since the Industrial Revolution in the UK. “Technology is a way of struggle which is used many times to weaken the social movements in resistance”.
According to Vainer, electric power generated from dams is only profitable because the projects don´t take into account their social and natural costs. “Today, hydropower is a “good business” because the social and environmental costs are not taken into account”, he concludes.
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