‘Like Fish on Land’: testimonies from people in Uganda and Laos after being displaced
In the Nam Ou river in Northern Laos, seven dams are built by a Chinese company. All over the world one can see the same picture when it comes to hydropower projects: it has devastating impacts on the people living in or around the area where they are being built, primarily because they are being displaced. It seems that displacement of communities is still accepted as the unavoidable collateral damage of infrastructure projects. This reveals a highly unacceptable attitude towards poor communities in whose name development is proceeding. In Laos, our Laotian partner visited communities along the river to talk with people about their life after displacement:
No other options
Before the construction of the Nam Ou dams, young women and girls used to fish and collect edible river weed, fresh river oyster, ferns and herbs to sell at local markets. The influx of construction workers as well the deterioration of natural resources that they are depending on, leaves women in a vulnerable situation. Nowadays, to be able to make a living they are often forced into sex work.
“What do you sell?” I ask the young woman because I feel hungry after a long day of travelling.
“We sell different things” one Khmu lady replies in Lao.
“Do you sell noodle soup?” I ask again.
“No, we don’t”, she responds with a shy smile.
I feel speechless. From where we sit, further in the back, I can see the entrances to 6 small rooms.
“Shs”, the daughter in law of the boatman that brought us here lowers her voice and raises her finger to point at a neon light above us. Outside the rain is pouring so we cannot leave the place.
After five minutes, a girl comes out from one of the small rooms. She looks too young to work, I would guess she is between 13 and 15 years old at max. She looks very tired for the time of the day. It is around noon. Later, another girl comes out of the next room, also looking very young. Then two girls from a bigger room; one girl a little bit older than the other. Most girls wear make-up. I start to understand that they all work at nighttime.
Raindrops continue to drop on the earth, some are only slowly absorbed by it. Those girls slowly take the time to wash their faces and then put on new make-up for the coming night.”
Large hydro power projects and local communities
Our publication ‘Like Fish on Land’ provides a snapshot in time of the situation in communities in Uganda and Laos after being displaced by the development of hydro power. It reveals a shocking account of amongst others gender based violence that endemically accompanies infrastructure development all over the world.
Same picture eveywhere
The personal testimonies in the four cases presented in this publication are illustrative for the bigger picture. They show that people’s livelihoods, food security, environment and ecological resources and gender relations are compromised by the resettlement process following the development.
For more information
Read more about this subject
Large-scale infrastructural projects have detrimental effects on local people and the environment, while their benefits are felt elsewhere. Both ENDS is working to ensure that local people have a greater say in decision-making and is investigating the way these projects are funded.
Publication / 29 May 2019
Blog / 16 June 2020
The political and industrial elites in Indonesia grasp their opportunity
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
News / 22 August 2022
Complaint to development banks about the Nachtigal dam in Cameroon
Both ENDS partner IFI Synergy has filed a complaint to the World Bank on behalf of local inhabitants about the Nachtigal dam in Cameroon. The dam is causing considerable problems for local communities and local people feel that the compensation they receive is inadequate. They also feel that they were insufficiently informed and consulted before construction of the dam started.
News / 4 August 2017
Nicaragua Canal undermines human rights
A report published yesterday by Amnesty Central America shows that the plans for a new canal leads to numerous violations of human rights in Nicaragua. And that's even before the works have started. Many organisations therefore protest against the canal, supported by Both ENDS.
Agua Zarca: indigenous fight against dam costs lives
Indigenous Hondurans are resisting the construction of the Agua Zarca hydrodam. Their fight has cost several lives, including that of Berta Cáceres. After considerable public pressure, Dutch development bank FMO withdrew from the project.
Indigenous communities threatened by Barro Blanco dam in Panama
The Barro Blanco dam project in Panama, which has Dutch financial support, is causing indigenous lands to disappear under water. Both ENDS is working to protect the rights of indigenous communities living near the dam.
News / 16 August 2016
Art as a powerful messenger: music from the Pantanal
10 songs: that is the result of a 4 day long, 450 km boat trip through the Pantanal with 36 people. The project Pantanal Poética sought and found a new way to look at the Pantanal, a valuable but threatened nature reserve on the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.
News / 13 April 2015
The Pantanal, the world’s largest waterland, is under serious threat
For several decades, Both ENDS has been closely following the developments in this large water area in the centre of South America. We work closely with organisations which aim to ensure that the local population knows about these developments and, if necessary, protect it from these changes. But why is this area both so special and important for the whole of South America? And what exactly is threatening this area? C. Cornell Evers, independent photographer and writer, spoke with Tamara Mohr of Both ENDS and Sander van Andel of IUCN to find answers. The result of this meeting is an interesting interview.
News / 26 September 2018
Temporary ban on new hydro dams in the Brazilian Pantanal
Good news from Brazil! The National Water Agency (ANA) has stopped issuing new permits for the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Paraguay river basin, which is part of the Pantanal wetlands in South-America. The suspension will last at least until May 2020, after the publication of a comprehensive socio-economic and environmental impact assessment that the ANA started in 2016.
Uganda’s Energy Future
Despite the existence of many hydropower dams, foreign investments and large government spending on energy, and new plans for hydropower, oil and gas projects, the vast majority of rural Uganda still remains without electricity. Together with our local partners we are striving towards a sustainable energy strategy for Uganda that starts from the needs and wishes of local communities.
Letter / 25 October 2022
Official Statement of Indonesian Coalition for Monitoring Infrastructure Development related to AIIB Statement of Anti Retaliation
The Mandalika International Street Circuit is a street circuit in the resort of Mandalika in Central Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara Province. The project, mainly intended to attract tourists, is largely financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Publication / 5 December 2012
News / 2 November 2015
Not soy, but music in the Brazilian Pantanal!
The Pantanal, in the heart of South America, at the border of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, is the world’s largest freshwater wetland with an extremely rich biodiversity. Tourism and fishing are the main sources of income for the local population. This enormous natural area is invaluable for the water management of a large part of the continent, stretching all the way down to the Argentinian La Plata area, some 1,500 kilometres away. The area faces many threats and Both ENDS therefore already started actively supporting local organisations striving to protect the Pantanal in 1994.
News / 15 November 2018
All Eyes on the Amazon: the future of protecting forests in Brazil
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
News / 26 October 2022
Senegal: 26 innocent people including Both ENDS' partner arrested in Senegal
Update October 27th:
Today our friends have been released after five nights in detention. We welcome this great news and we are happy and relieved that Babacar Diouf and the others who were arrested will soon be back with their loved ones.
Nonetheless this was a very bad signal from Senegalese authorities and police and an indication of the growing restriction on civic space in Senegal. It is unacceptable that freedom of expression is restricted, people should not have to go to jail for peacefully expressing their opinion - especially when their livelihood is at stake.
Publication / 21 April 2017
Publication / 21 April 2017
News / 28 June 2022
In solidarity with daughter of murdered Indigenous leader
On Tuesday 28 June, the Honduran organisation COPINH and the Global Justice Association filed a complaint with the public prosecutor in the Netherlands against Dutch development bank FMO. For COPINH, this is part of their continued efforts to bring to justice those involved in the murder of their leader Berta Cáceres. FMO financed the Agua Zarca project in Honduras in 2014. The new complaint is based on documents indicating that FMO's money has been used improperly.
Fair Green and Global Alliance (FGG)
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.