Land acquisition and disempowerment

Authored by: Asmita Kabra , Jay Drydyk

Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138647909
eBook ISBN: 9781315626796
Adobe ISBN:


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Displacement by development occurs when a development project or process deprives individuals, families or communities of access to space on which they lived and/or which they used for livelihood resources and activities. Mega-dam projects are the most vivid examples. More than 10 million people are displaced each year by development projects. The impact on people’s lives can be impoverishing, as they can be deprived of land, dwellings, community and natural resources, and livelihoods. Development institutions typically respond to these as problems of well-being and equity, which they attempt to mitigate through social safeguard policies. In this chapter we draw attention to two further issues: empowerment and democratic agency. Displacement and resettlement processes typically are disempowering for the ‘oustees’, and little scope is given for effective democratic deliberation on whether the projects causing displacement are needed, much less well designed. Deeper engagement with the political economy of access can help us understand when and how democratic deliberation will occur, and how diverse categories of ‘oustees’ will be able to use these deliberative processes to resist dispossession or improve post-displacement livelihood outcomes.

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