Mega Dams and Other Infrastructure

Industrial operations require a vast network of infrastructure: roads, ports, waterways, railways, etc. They cut through forests and communities’ territories in order to transport commodities and minerals to industrial centres. Mega dams, although said to provide “clean energy,” flood forests and generate energy primarily for polluting industries and large urban centres.

Communities have a long history of confronting the disasters imposed by corporations and elites. For them, the “emergency” was a reality well before the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, profit-seekers are abusing the situation to advance land grabs and roll back legislation.

Members of the WRM’s Advisory Committee were invited to contribute to this special Bulletin with reflections on the devastating situation of deepening injustices that forest communities and peasant families around the world are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé people had to endure brutal repression to avoid the onslaught on their territories. They managed to get the Government to ban mining and hydroelectric dams in their territory. However, another intense onslaught came from conservationist NGOs.

While it was easy to see the smoke from the forest fires in Brazil, it was much harder to see what was behind the Brazilian government’s smokescreen: actions that will lead the rainforest to a swift death, destroying territories, livelihoods and the diverse cultures.

This bulletin highlights threats involved in the so-called “energy transition,” and exposes its dirty secret of exponential expansion of mining in the global South as a consequence of the massive demand for “green” energy.

The growth of mineral extraction and metallurgical production, along with the consequent proliferation of toxic waste tailings dams, has occurred at the same rate as the emptying and bursting of tailings dams in several parts of the world.

“Shock” is a common reaction when a crisis emerges… or when it comes to light. However, it also provides a convenient smoke screen for governments, financial institutions and companies behind which they can hide their own role in and responsibility for the current crises in the forests.

It is impossible to think about extraction without thinking about a vast network of accompanying infrastructure, and thus even greater deforestation and destruction.

We live in an age of ever more “extreme infrastructure.” The construction of roads, railway lines and other infrastructure linking production and resource extraction centres with major consumer areas is tied to profoundly undemocratic forms of elitist planning.

The Waterway aims to connect the Amazon to the world. But that argument is based on the idea that we are disconnected in the Amazon. That is not true. What it really wants to do is place the Amazon in service of capital, razing peoples.