The Problem with Large-scale Hydro Dams in Northeast India

Alexandra Goodson

India’s Energy
As of 2009 India had the largest energy demand in the world behind China and the United States (Ahn 24). The largest supply of this energy comes from coal, but as India’s energy sector grows it has become more unable to deliver a constant and secure supply of energy. In recent years renewable energy has been explored as a clean and “sustainable” way to a more secure energy future for India. Wind power, solar power and even small-scale hydropower have shown to have produced good amounts of energy as well as maintain a sustainable picture. The Ministry of Development of the Northeast region identified the Brahmaputra Basin as the “future powerhouse of India” (Chowdhury196). Following that in 2001, the Central Electric Authority (CEA) gave the Basin the highest place of order for its high potential in electricity generation. Because of these high markings the CEA plans to construct 168 large hydraulic plant projects, many of which are already in the process of construction (Chowdhury 198). Large-scale Hydro dams have proven to cause more damage than good. In addition to the environmental damage that these dams cause, the damage to the livelihoods of the people affected by these dams may be even greater. This paper explores the environmental justice issues that are breached as a result of the building and running of these dams. The energy values that are taken into account as values that have been violated in the case study of large-scale hydro dams in Northeast India are due process, intergenerational equity, and intragenerational equity (Sovacool 367).

Due Process
The definition of due process by the energy justice conceptual framework is that countries should respect due process and human rights in their production and use of energy (Sovacool 367). States must take into account the communities that are involved in the decisions about projects that will affect them. In this case study this right is overlooked by the private companies who are building these dams and the states that allow for the construction of the dams. Due to India’s impending energy crisis their need for energy fast is extremely apparent. To speed up the process of accessing the power for the future development of the region the northeast states have started to sign and establish Memoranda’s of understanding (MoU’s) and Memoranda’s of agreement (MoA’s) (Chowdhury 201). Arunachal Pradesh is the largest player in the region in the hydropower generation. As of 2010 they have had 132 hydropower projects and their government has signed MoU’s for 103 large projects (201). Because of the MoU’s and MoA’s being signed before any other evaluation is done there is hardly and environmental or social impact assessments done for these projects. The largest due process issue that has presented itself as an effect of the construction of these dams is the resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced population. The Brahmaputra river basin is one of the world’s largest river basin’s covering 580,000 sq. km. It is home to more than 100 indigenous tribes. These people that tend to be affected are already part of the marginalized population of India, being the “scheduled tribes” or “scheduled caste” (202). The dams tend to be being built in remote area. These areas are inhabited by tribes who are dependent on the cultivation, forest and river ecosystem for food security and their livelihood (201). These people are many times not consulted prior to being resettled, therefore not having a say in the project or where they get resettled. When they are aware of the construction of a dam prior to its influence their protests go unheard by the government and the companies. An example of where these tribes’ human rights are blatantly violated is the Ranagadi Hydro Electric Project (RHEP). The project that was commissioned in 2002 eventually failed due to underproduction displaced more than 30 families to a settlement area 25-30 km away (202). The important things they lost were a schoolhouse, their own houses with electricity, and their jobs since their jobs were dependent on the land they lived on. The new settlement had a school with no teacher, depriving the students of any further education in that area. Their houses were made of poor quality material and the free electricity that was promised by the government never happened. Agriculture was the most common occupation, but due to unregulated flooding that killed both cattle and crops and the diversion of water for the dam causing problems for the flow of agriculture water, it is pretty impossible to maintain any farmland with certainty (203). This example is just one, of possible hundreds of future displacement stories that don’t reap any type of compensation or respect of human rights to those affected by the extraction of this energy.

Intragenerational Equity
Intragenerational equity is explained that present people have a right to access energy services fairly, and thus are entitled to a certain set of minimal energy services, which enable them to enjoy a basic minimum of well being (Sovacool 370). With the displacement of many lower caste tribal people, it is clear that their livelihoods are stationed lower than those of whom the energy is being extracted and provided for. Basic rights include employment, food, shelter and unpolluted resources (370). These rights are stripped from those who are affected by the construction of these large-scale dams. The building of these dams has brought and will bring 12,000 to 100,000 laborers into the northeast region. The influx of this amount of people will put more pressure on the resources that are still left after the destruction done by the water. Bringing in more parties to an already difficult to maintain area as it is being allocated, will make the question of what entities are these goods distributed to much harder to answer. When a dam is built, and people start to live around it intragenerational problems tend to arise. Different tribes try to stake claim to different parts of the land, while some fight still for the destruction of the dam (Chowdhury 205). After a while even the destruction of the dam causes problems amongst the people, as some have begun to make a living off of fishing in the water allocated and others have moved into parts where the destruction of the dam would flood their new homelands (205). Intragenerational equity becomes more and more difficult to contest as it the hardest to say what is most right. How does one weigh one life higher than another?

Intergenerational Equity
Intergenerational equity reviews the distributive justice between present and future generations. It includes that future people have a right to at least equivalent good life that is undisturbed by the damage our energy systems (Sovacool 307). In the Brahmaputra river basin the river system is closely linked with the floodplain ecology of the wetlands and grasslands in the Brahmaputra valley (Chowdhury 201). Any disturbance, especially large land projects, has the opportunity to ruin the ecology of the valley, making it hard for future generations to use that land. In addition, the river basin and valley is home to high seismic sensitivity due to the conjoining of the Chinese and Indian tectonic plate being right under this area, and because of this the area sees devastating earthquakes periodically (201, 202). It is unfair, especially with this knowledge very public and known, to possibly put future parties at risk of major floods if an earthquake were to happen. It is the responsibility of the Indian government to make sure that all projects are constructed in a way and place that does not put the future generations in a compromising position.

Large-hydro power dams have proven to fail the same people they were built to help in the region of northeast India. The transformation that will and has been imposed on the landscape, riverscape, and demographics is unjust. There has yet to be any sufficient evidence of appropriate compromises made with the people who have been displaced by the construction of these dams. It is pertinent that the Indian government takes into account its people first, and here they put the water before the dam so to say. In the future I would urge the government to be more aware of where they are building and who they are hurting. It would prove much better if they built a sustainable and efficient energy source, not only for the people in the region, but for everyone in the country.

Ahn, Sun-Joo and Dagmar Graczyk. “Understanding Engergy Challenges in India: Policies, Players, and Issues.” International Energy Agency: Partner Country Series (2012): 47-57. 20 Feb. 2015.
Chowdhury, Arnab Roy, and Ngamjahao Kipgen. “Deluge Amidst Conflict: Hydropower Development And Displacement In The North-East Region Of India.” Progress In Development Studies 13.3 (2013): 195-208. Business Source Complete. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
Sovacool, Benjamin K., and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice: Problems, Principles, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014. Print.

Petroleum Drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin: an Injustice to Indigenous Peoples


Ecuador is small Latin American country in area, but rich in culture and ecological biodiversity.  Before 1967, the Ecuadorian economy relied mainly on agricultural exports and was one of the poorest countries in Latin America.  In 1967, the petroleum company Texaco-Gulf discovered a large oil reserve in the Oriente, or Amazon basin.  This discovery of one of the largest oil fields in the world drastically reshaped the economy and the environment. GDP increased, and net foreign-exchange earnings grew significantly (San Sebastián & Hurtig, 2004).  Today, Ecuador is still mainly dependent on its petroleum resources that account for more than half of its export earnings and 2/5 of its public sector revenues. Ecuador’s current external debt is $19.91 billion USD (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015), and the government pays 80% of its foreign debt payments through oil revenue (Environmental Resource Center, 2015).  Oil extraction is profitable but shortsighted, and is the country’s current greatest asset. However, there were many social and environmental injustices that occurred as a result of the oil boom.

The start of oil exploration and extraction in 1967 by Texaco put Ecuador down a path of petroleum dependence and environmental degradation. Oil extraction is an invasive process that requires the construction of a vast infrastructure of access roads, oil wells, pipelines and heavy machinery. The process creates a toxic sludge byproduct of crude oil and chemicals used for extraction.  In order to cut costs, Texaco deposited the waste in unlined open pits. There were no regulations on how far these pits had to be from communities, and many overflowed during high precipitation events.  The toxic sludge of crude oil and chemicals would then flow directly into people’s yards, and through agricultural zones into waterways. Additionally, under the Texaco consortium’s control, many intentional and unintentional oil spills occurred along unmanaged pipelines, and during the extraction process.  Between the years 1972 and 1993, 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater was dumped into the Ecuadorian Amazon basin, 750 times larger than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (Amazon Watch, 2015).

The Ecuadorian government allowed Texaco to extract petroleum virtually unregulated, and allowed vast contamination of the water and land. In 1990 the Ecuadorian state oil company Petroecuador took over Texaco’s operations in the Amazon basin.  Petroecuador continued using Texaco’s previous infrastructure and techniques for extracting oil.  Very few improvements have been made in extraction techniques since the beginning of Texaco’s drilling. 

The Amazon basin in Ecuador referred to as el Oriente, contains immense biodiversity.  There are over 100,000 km2 of tropic rainforest, and houses over 500,000 people or about 4.5% of Ecuador’s population.  Eight groups of indigenous peoples and many peasants live in the Amazon basin, and depend on the area’s natural resources for the culture and for the livelihoods (San Sebastián & Hurtig, 2004).  They use the stream and river water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and recreation.  The water and land is their life.  Within one hectare of land in the ITT oil field region of the Amazon, there are more species of trees than in all of North America.  The basin is rich in petroleum, biodiversity, and sensitive cultures of people. 

As a result of the billions of gallons of toxic wastewater dumped into Amazonian rivers, many indigenous communities began to experience severe health impacts. A 1993 a community health study suggested that communities in oil producing areas have higher rates of morbidity, abortion, dermatitis, skin mycosis and mal-nutrition, compared to communities without oil production.  The people living in these areas have no access to treated water continue to eat toxic fish, drink the water, and bathe in the water (San Sebastián & Hurtig, 2004).  These toxins do not biodegrade, and will remain in high concentration in this area.

The Amazon basin is a massive expanse with little exposure to the mainstream media.  It is shaded by tropical rainforest, and inhabited by communities who have limited interaction with outside society.  The communities in the Amazon basin can be labeled as “peripheral communities” that tend to be remote, economically marginal, politically powerless, culturally defensive and environmentally degraded (Sovacool & Dworkin, 2014, p. 203).  The indigenous community’s lack of formal education, information, and representation made it easier for the Ecuadorian government to make decisions that poorly effected such communities without rebellion.  Those affected did not see profit, only degradation of their land and livelihoods.

Energy Justice Framework:


The following elements of the Energy Justice Framework apply to the energy injustice that occurred as a result of Texaco-Gulf’s oil drilling, and the Ecuadorian’s government’s lack of ethical control over the situation.

Sustainability: acting so that any impacts on the environment, society, and the economy are minimized and allow people to live well today and in the future.  

The oil drilling in the Amazon basin is destroying the natural state of the rainforests, the water supply, and the wildlife abundance.  The indigenous communities depend on the water and land for survival. If oil extraction continues to be mismanaged and irresponsible, future generations will suffer from increasing health problems, and will struggle to provide their communities with sufficient food and water supplies.  Oil extraction and the degradation of the Amazon basin take advantage of present day people and cheats future generations out of a healthy environment in which to live.  The Ecuadorian government through their company Petroecuador is being unsustainable by looking at the short term benefits, instead of the long term negative implications.  They are utilizing an unrenewable energy source that contributes to climate change, and building a country that will be unable to sustain itself in the future on oil from its intrinsically valuable Amazon basin. Future generations will bear the burden of today’s energy needs.

Due Process: the respect of every person’s right of fair treatment by the judicial system, and respecting their human rights.

Indigenous communities who have inhabited the Amazon basin for centuries are being displaced from their land and sickened by the pollution. In order to abide by due process, every person should have the right to fair and informed consent about projects that will directly affect them (Sovacool & Dworkin, 2014, p. 369).  Indigenous groups have been given no power in the decision making in oil extraction construction, and the Ecuadorian government has given itself power to allocate any land to oil extraction. Additionally, social and environmental impact assessments were required by Ecuadorian law.  Texaco never published a single report (Amazon Watch, 2015).  

Responsibility: every person, community, and nation must take accountability and interest in the protection of their environment and work to prevent damages.

The Ecuadorian government was not responsible in its dealings with Texaco and the indigenous communities.  The government had few initial environmental regulations, and little legal enforcement.  They saw the Amazon basin as a basin of money to pay off external debt, and they did not take into consideration the livelihoods of the people living there or of the ecological health of the region. Additionally, Texaco did not take responsibility for its actions and fought against paying compensation fees to the indigenous communities until 2012, when they were finally found guilty.  However, they are still in court proceedings and no money has been paid.



Amazon Watch. (2015, 3 14). Chevron Toxico: The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency. (2015, 3 6). Ecuador. Retrieved from The World Factbook:

Environmental Resource Center. (2015, 3 17). The True Costs of Petroleum Map: The World. Retrieved from

Rights, T. C. (1994). Rights Violations in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

San Sebastián, M., & Hurtig, A.-K. (2004). Oil exploitation in the Amazon basin of Ecuador: a public health emergency. Rev Panam Salud Publica/Pan Am J Public Health, 205-211.

Sovacool, B. K., & Dworkin, M. H. (2014). Global Energy Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



Oil and Women’s Rights in Nigeria


Energy injustices are prevalent throughout Nigeria, especially in the oil industry. Women are a susceptible group towards these injustices and have an extreme disadvantage when it comes to being exposed to harmful chemicals from oil production. This case study will examine how the oil industry affects women’s basic rights as well as women’s reproductive rights. The energy justice framework presents eight different energy values that should be taken into consideration during the production of energy, as well as during the consumption process. These values are availability, affordability, due process (human rights), information, sustainability, intergenerational equity, intragenerational equity and responsibility. While each of these principles are extremely important the three that are the most relevant to women’s rights in Nigeria are responsibility, intragenerational equity and due process. Responsibility means that governments and companies need to take responsibility for negative externalities brought on by energy production. This means taking steps towards solving environmental damage or the creation of social problems within a country (Sovacool 370). Intragenerational equity means that people have the right to access energy services fairly. This means that the energy should not leave certain people with polluted water air or other environmentally harmed goods that would harm people’s basic wellbeing (Sovacool 370). Finally, due process means that the production of energy should not harm people’s basic human rights. This means that communities should be able to be involved in basic decision-making in projects that will affect them (Sovacool 368).


While oil exploitation has brought large amounts of wealth to Nigeria, it has come at the expense of negative externalities on the population, especially women. Oil spills as well as waste and water discharge from the oil refineries have caused severe health problems, loss of biodiversity as well as sociocultural issues. Many oil companies report oil spills as theft. When this occurs, people in the area do not receive any compensation for the damages that occur (Amnesty International 5). Women have felt the greatest impact from oil spills and gas flaring because the women farm and fish so they are exposed to more environmental hazards. This type of exposure puts women at risk both in terms of health, but also for indirect factors (Oluduro 774). In addition to being exposed to fumes and waste, Nigerians are drinking from well water that has been contaminated with carcinogens. In some cases water was brought into these communities, but the rate at which it is brought in is erratic and sometimes is not any cleaner than the water out of their wells (Fox News). The lack of clean water as well the long term exposure to chemicals from the oil production has increased the chance of miscarriage, stillbirth as well as increasing the women’s blood pressure which can starve the fetus of oxygen (Oluduro 775).

While the oil production has immediate consequences on the health and wellbeing of women, it also has indirect consequences on women. One indirect consequence has been an increase in sexual assault. Soldiers that come into the area to prevent outbreaks of riots have been known to sexually assault women who participate in the protests. In one province of the Niger Delta as many as 40 rapes are being reported each day (Oluduro 781). This type of sexual behavior increases the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and STDs in the region. In addition to this there has been a huge sociocultural impact on women. Many women are forced into becoming sex workers because the amount of oil has killed off a large amount of the agriculture in the area, eliminating one of the main sources of work for women. This creates a stigma on women, which can be very hard to over come in the community. In addition this is effecting women’s health because it is eliminating medicinal plants in the area used by local doctors. About 60-80% of Nigerian plan and animal species are in the Niger Delta, so the oil byproducts lead to a huge loss of Nigerian biodiversity (Oluduro 784).


Responsibility has played a huge role in the continuation of these practices on women. Even though more than 40 rapes are being reported per day, the government has not acknowledged that they are occurring. Even though the government has not admitted to rape, they cannot deny it either because there have been national stories on some of the victims. A main reason for this lack of responsibility taken on these injustices to women’s rights is a lack of female representation in the government. Without a female to speak on behalf of the women’s needs, the government will continue to ignore the problems that women face. This plays a huge role in the injustices against women in the area because if the government continues to ignore the problem, the oil companies as well as soldiers that come into the region will think their actions are ok.

Intragenerational Equity

This plays an important role because is it fair that the women in Nigeria have to suffer in order for other people in the international community to receive oil? Nigeria will need to create a solution to leave the women in a better situation to be able to export oil into the international community. While this will be expensive and time consuming, it is not fair to leave this population with such negative externalities from the extraction of oil.

Due Process

Every person should have access to basic human rights as declared by the Universal declaration of 1948. Clearly this is a violation of women’s basic human rights. Once again, the government will need to acknowledge the violations that are occurring because of oil extraction before any progress is made. Women should be included in talks about the oil extraction so that they can address their concerns about what is happening as a result of this process. If women are able to participate in the decision making this will greatly improve their livelihoods.

Moving Forward

Looking forward, there are a few things the government can do in order to help improve the situation for women in Nigeria. One is to improve the quality of the healthcare system. This system is currently underfunded and many women cannot receive the quality of treatment necessary (Oluduro 784). For women to have their voice heard, it is imperative that women start to play a larger role in the government. As long as there is minimal female participation there will not be any improvement to the situation because nobody will speak on their behalf (Oluduro 785). Not only should women increase presence in the government, but there also needs to be an increase in NGO’s speaking on behalf of women’s rights. This would provide female empowerment in different levels of society as well as provide a nonbiased organization that would be able to hold the government accountable for its actions (Oluduro 787). Oil production is necessary for the economy of Nigeria, but there are steps the country can take for the process to have fewer negative externalities on the population.



“Bad Information: Oil Spill investigations in the Niger Delta.” Amnesty International         (2013): 5-13. Web.


Failure to clean Niger Delta oil pollution still devastating people’s health: Amnesty.”      Fox News (2014). Web.


Oluduro, Olubayo, Ebenezer Durojaye. “The implications of oil pollution for the  enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights of women in Niger Delta area of Nigeria.” The International Journal of Human Rights 17, 7-8 (2013): 772-795.        Web.


Sovacool, Benjamin K., and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice: Problems,          Principles, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014. Print.


Nigeria Poster Information


Energy Poverty in India

August Andrews


Energy Justice


Case Study: Energy Poverty in India


India is one of the largest nations in the world, with a population of 1.25 billion people.  This makes India the second most populous country in the world, second only to China.  Despite its massive population and massive workforce, a large portion of India still lives in energy poverty.  An average of about thirty five percent of India’s population is caught in energy poverty.  Energy poverty is where people, just like having low or no access to money in economic poverty, have little to no access to electricity and the benefits that come with it.  In India, with electricity come many injustices whether there is a lack of it or an abundance.  These injustices take many forms but many revolve round the energy justice framework points of due process, availability, and intragenerational equity.

Due process is an important aspect of the energy justice framework.  Due process is based on human rights and that in the processes of producing energy or extracting it that these rights must be respected.  Due process also involves the human rights justices or injustices in an absence of electricity as well through a number of things like access to clean drinking water, education, the right to live a healthy life and many more.  In rural India energy poverty is much greater because of the difficulties in rural electrification similar to America in the early 1900s, including cost of putting in lines, maintenance from harsh conditions or vegetation. Another factor to consider in electrification is the economic variable of putting a lot of resources into extending the energy grid to an area that is sparsely populated or where many may not be able to afford electricity and installation on a seasonal agrarian income.  In the absence of electricity the most popular form of light energy is kerosene lamps.  Before the revolution of incandescent lighting kerosene was the most up to date and popular lighting source, with the oil industry rising with it.  While it may be one of the best non-electric sources of light, kerosene has some drawbacks.  The first of these is the level of light, much dimmer than electric lights, and the lamps require much maintenance for them to work well, with constant cleaning and trimming of the wick.  A bigger problem and injustice lies however in the fumes it puts off.  Like any burning substance kerosene produces smoke, acting as an indoor air pollutant.  While this may not seem like a large issue just from lighting, it has to be taken into account also that most people in rural India use biomass as an energy source for cooking and heating.  Breathing in this poorly combusted biomass smoke as well as kerosene smoke is harmful to the people living there, causing respiratory issues and even death.  The annual death toll from this in India is estimated to be 500,000 deaths.  That’s 25 times the entire population of Carlisle dying in a year, just from fumes from cooking and lighting.  This is a great injustice to due process because simply from a lack of electricity, many people’s health and lives are detrimentally effected.  Another injustice coming from this is the time and money that has to be spent to get these forms of energy.  It is estimated that rural households spend ten percent of their income on biomass fuels or kerosene.  This income could be used for other things such as electricity which would cover those needs and extend to other parts of household life as well, improving the standard of living there.  Often these people have to go get these resources themselves, which can also endanger their health.  In impoverished parts of the world, women out gathering biomass fuels are at greater risk the further they go from home to things such as assault and rape but also just hazards associated with it such as lifting heavy loads of wood.

Availability of electricity is also an aspect of the energy justice framework where injustices are found in India’s energy poverty.  This part of the energy justice framework revolves around access to a reliable and stable source of electricity.  Light can play a large role in household life, one way it is especially important is to children in school.  In homes where they have access to electric light, children have access to sufficient light at night to study by.  On average these students have been shown to study more than children in homes without electricity.  This puts the children in non-electrified homes at an automatic disadvantage to peers that have access to electricity.  The lack of availability is also an injustice because it affects economic opportunity for many people.  Studies show that women in households with electricity on average work seventeen percent more hours than in households without.  Because of access to electricity they no longer have to spend time, energy, or income gathering biomass fuel and can spend this time earning a living and adding to the household income.  Electrification of random households also showed that electrification can reduce poverty by thirteen percent, supporting the ability of electrification to improve standard of living in these households.  Electrified villages and towns also have better economic opportunity because with electricity they can keep their shops open for longer hours and at night, giving them more time to earn a living as opposed to shops that may not have electricity.  This is an injustice because since these people don’t have access they are at an economic opportunity disadvantage to electrified homes.  While electrification boasts the ability to improve standard of living and economic opportunity, it is also limited by the lack of reliable and secure energy services in these areas.  If energy providers and services are poorly operated these homes can’t take advantage of the electricity or tap into its full potential.  In fact, because of this almost all rural homes also have kerosene lamps for when the power goes out or services are down.  This is an injustice because it is limiting the availability of needed energy because of the inefficiencies of an industry.  This unreliability of energy services also makes the state more reluctant to electrify rural areas, prolonging the injustices occurring there.

While the injustices of energy poverty in India provide great injustices, the processes involved in obtaining that energy also bring with them their own set of injustices.  While these issues cross paths with many of the points of the energy justice framework, one that involves many of the issues with energy production is intragenerational equity.  Intragenerational equity is being responsible for and taking today’s actions, knowing that they will affect the lives of future generations.  Because of intragenerational equity when you discuss the injustices of energy poverty, you also have to examine the injustices of producing more energy to electrify.  India’s primary form of energy is coal because it is relatively cheap and is largely domestically produced, but coal’s production and use brings its own set of injustices.  Coal mining has historically been a very dangerous job, usually done underground, but the mines found now in India look like a different planet.  The most common form of coal mining in India is now open pit mining.  Some injustices that comes from this are that the overburden, which must be removed to get to the coal, is toxic. The mine itself also provides the injustice of displacing people with improper or no compensation, rooting up families future generations and their ways of life.  This is especially problematic for tribal peoples because they rely on the land around them to sustain them and can’t just move to a big city and try to find work.  These tribal peoples also live in some of the most mineral and resource rich areas, putting them at high risk.  The reason these things are intragenerational equity issues is because once the coal is gone there will be no jobs or energy being produced with the mine’s coal, there will just be nothing left but something that looks like it should belong on mars and the harmful effects to the people and environment around it for generations to come.

Energy poverty is a complex problem, involving many moving parts in both the government and the private sector.  The injustices associated with energy poverty cover many parts of the energy justice framework, but some of the most prominent are ones involving due process, intragenerational equity, and availability.  India is following the path blazed by other countries to electrify and will likely find many of the same problems they did, with electricity first coming to the wealthy and the cities and with government efforts allowing it to spread to the masses and rural areas.  The injustices of energy poverty involving due process are many aspects of health related issues such as injury from collecting fuel and respiratory problems from the combustion of that fuel.  The injustices of availability are the results of a lack of electricity like decreased economic opportunities as well as children in electrified homes being at automatic advantage over other students who may not have electricity available to them.  The most pressing issues of intragenerational equity did not come from energy poverty itself, but instead from the solution to the problem.  By building more coal mines and plants they are degrading their environment, and leaving future generations with a much more scarred and polluted world than they found it.  India needs energy, but the world doesn’t need more coal.  Instead of choosing the cheaper option of relying on coal for their energy needs, India should put those funds and labor into renewable energy and programs that work directly with communities to bring them electricity.



Works Cited


Sovacool, Benjamin K., and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice: Problems, Principles,   and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2014. Print.

Khandker, Shahidur R., Hussain A. Samad, Rubaba Ali, and Douglas F. Barnes. “Who Benefits   Most from Rural Electrification? Evidence in India.” The Energy Journal(2014). World           Bank. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <>.

I did not know where to find the information to cite my other two in class sources, but my other two in class sources were: “Rich Lands Poor People CSE”, and the “India Energy Challenges” reading



India Nuclear Energy Injustice


Jawahar Nehru, the prime minister, and Homi Bhabha, the nuclear physicist, were the founders of India’s Nuclear Energy program. They first set up the Board of Atomic Research where Bhabha was free to investigate as he pleased and reported directly to the prime minister, his good buddy. While the nuclear program was initially about bombs and military strength, the Atomic Energy Commission and Department of Atomic Energy were founded in 1948 and 1954 respectively as the powerful bureaucracies in charge of increasing India’s peaceful nuclear energy productivity (Gupta 360). The Atomic Energy Commission creates the policy to be approved by the prime minister and to be executed by the Department of Atomic Energy. Planning for the future, Bhabha and Nehru envisioned a small yet powerful group with minimal scrutiny. This future did come to pass and to this day, the Department of Atomic Energy is one of the most powerful ministries in India, acting with little regard to the public or the environment. Due process, Information, and Responsibility are clearly lacking in the Nuclear Energy arena dating back to its military history.



There is a clear division over Nuclear Energy in India. Most political leaders believe nuclear is the savior of India, with the ability to provide clean alternative energy to the masses of Indians without electricity. On the other hand, those masses of Indians are worried about not only disasters, but everyday exposure by workers and those living in proximity. Nuclear power plants create wastewater that can be “contaminated with radioactive tritium and other toxic substances that can leak into nearby groundwater sources” (Sovacool 81). While there have not been any major explosions like the Fukushima disaster, there are documented cases of small radioactive spills that either endanger workers or the surrounding environment.

Radiation is not the only cause for protest. Nuclear Energy also requires rare minerals like Uranium or in India’s case, Thorium. India has one of the largest stocks of Thorium and now is spearheading nuclear plants that run off of thorium to power the fuel cycle. This was all part of Bhabha’s three-stage strategy of becoming energy independent. Stage 1 was to get the regular Uranium nuclear energy plants up and running and Stage 2 was where Thorium conversion was implemented. Stage 3 which has not been achieved yet, perfects the plants to run off of Thorium. Bhabha is considered the father of India’s nuclear energy program and today’s government follows his three-stage strategy religiously (“Understanding Energy” 81). From mining for the actual Thorium to building the enrichment and processing plants, the nuclear reactors themselves, and the waste storage centers, much land is required for a simple nuclear reactor. From start to finish, land is deforested and people are kicked out of their homes as the federal government demands land for the goal of energy security. Not only is the deforestation a huge problem, there is permanent disfigurement of the land through open-pit mining and the constant escape of radioactive substances. Accidents can happen at every step of the way and decommissioning is still very expensive as the costs persist in the environment for a long time and current technology is unavailable for secure storage.



India is very much accustomed to protests. Dating back to Gandhi’s nonviolent protests for independence, people have gathered for various reasons throughout much of Indian history. The Chipko movement protected the natural forests and the Bhopal disaster created further public discontent with companies branding the ideal of development. This genuine discontent with the government is very much justified. Since as early as 1989, people have fought against the opening of nuclear power plants. The plant in Koodankulam located in the southern tip of India was the site of the first battle. The initial deal was signed with Soviet Union but with the dissolution of the Soviet Union along with public protest, construction was halted and it wouldn’t come online till 2013, over 20 years later. The initial 1989 protests were organized by the National Fishermen’s Forum. The 10,000 fishermen, who were actually mostly women, marched on the reactor and were fired on by police. The people were worried that the nuclear power plant would harm the fish in the surrounding area, for some, their livelihood. Simple fasting and peaceful protest were met with harsh resistance by the government.

The UCIL or Uranium Corporation Limited of India has been the right hand of the DAE and one of the worst groups in terms of injustices. An important part of Stage 1, Uranium was needed in high volume and the first mine was located in Jaduguda in Eastern India. This is a very biodiverse location full of pristine forests, wildlife, and indigenous communities, which just so happens to be loaded with rare minerals. In 1996, the UCIL forewent any form of due process as they “razed houses, sacred groves, agricultural lands and graveyards in a village near Jaduguda in the state of Bihar, now Jharkhand, to build a third tailing dam for the uranium mines” (Bhadra 240). These tailing dams are highly radioactive and constantly leaking waste into the air and groundwater. Not only were people kicked out of their homes, pristine lands were destroyed, and toxic radiation has leaked into the environment. For workers and indigenous living around Jaduguda, cancers, rashes and birth defects, are daily challenges from living with exposure to radon gas and gamma radiation. Since the opening of the mines, indigenous have protested the lack of due process, information, and responsibility by the UCIL. JOAR or the Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation was one of the groups formed to educate indigenous and to fight against continued development of mines in the Jaduguda area.



It wasn’t until 1997 that the Ministry of Environment and Forest required public hearings for any environmental clearances. The UCIL is now required to participate in these hearings for any expansion to their mining operations. Still, business went on as usual as the UCIL paid to have indigenous left out of the public hearings. Nowadays, the Uranium mines have been closed yet they are still leaking radiation and the DAE is still failing to take responsibility. Mining for various minerals is seen as an excellent form of productivity and development and great for the economy. If this were the case, areas with mining would increase in affluence. Unfortunately, most of the mining districts have become even more impoverished than they already were (“Rich lands” 19). Attempts are now being made to increase the visibility of government projects and the various anti-mining groups have brought legislation against the UCIL. The passing of the Right to Information Act in 2005 and the scolding of the AERB or Atomic Energy Regulatory Board are attempts to increase regulations. While opening new mines is now much harder due to the public hearing requirement, much of the damage has already been done and more attention must be paid to limiting existing damages. While Uranium is no longer needed, abandoned mines still are a huge problem. With an open-pit mine, returning the land to its original state is impossible and radiation will continue to leak out. Responsibility must be taken by the DAE for these lasting consequences and proper payment should be issued to the indigenous communities that suffered due to a lack of due process and information.




Works Cited

Bhadra, Monamie. “Fighting Nuclear Energy, Fighting for India’s Democracy.” Science as Culture 22.2 (2013): 238-46. Print.

Gupta, Kuhika. “A Comparative Policy Analysis of Coalition Strategies: Case Studies of Nuclear Energy and Forest Management in India.” Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis 16.4 (2014): 356-72. Print.

“Rich lands, poor people.” CSE India. Centre for Science and Environment, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <>.

Sovacool, Benjamin K., and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.

“Understanding Energy Challenges in India.” International Energy Agency. OECD/IEA, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. <>.


Ecuador’s Energy Policy and Injustice

enst311 ecuador case study paper

Introduction to the Case Study

Ecuador is a developing country with deep economic problems, resource abundance, and significant biodiversity. Gonzalo Escribano’s 2013 article “Ecuador’s energy policy mix: Development versus conservation and nationalism with Chinese loans” describes how the Ecuadorean government struggles to balance its responsibilities to its people and its environment. These two objectives are very difficult to reconcile, however, because the remedy for one issue exacerbates the problems of the other. As a developing nation, Ecuador needs income to bolster its impoverished population. However, its main sources of income are extractive industries that directly harm its unique environments and ecosystems.


Background on Ecuador

Ecuador is a developing nation and the smallest oil producer of OPEC (Escribano 154). Of its population of 15.6 million people, 25.6% live below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook). Additionally, its GDP of $10,600 USD per capita is the 116th smallest in the world (CIA World Factbook). Economically, Ecuador depends on oil production. The country produces 526,000 bbl/day and is the 22nd largest exporter of crude oil globally (CIA World Factbook). Due to the growing national debt and widespread poverty in Ecuador, redistributive economic policies are in demand, and these programs necessitate an interest in the lucrative oil industries for funding. Geographically, Ecuador contains many of the world’s most unique and fragile ecosystems, including parts of the Amazon Rainforest and the Galapagos Islands, as well as other coastal and mountainous regions. These delicate regions often overlap with the areas that produce oil. Ethnically, Ecuador is very diverse, with the vast majority of the population identifying as mestizo, and with other white and indigenous segments. The wealth disparity between ethnicities and geographical locations is quite large in Ecuador, creating another imperative for the redistributive social programs (CIA World Factbook).


The Project

A wide range of energy related issues exist within Ecuador, and because of the rarity of the environment there, a spotlight can be shone on the nation’s mitigation between development and conservation. The other two case studies in the Ecuador section deal specifically with oil drilling in the Amazon and the expansion of hydroelectricity in the country. This case study, however, provides context for the other two by presenting the framework of Ecuadorean policy- and decision-making. Escribano’s article, especially when put in conversation with other texts, sheds light on the policy tensions underlying Ecuador’s fight to balance conservation and development.


Energy Justice Framework

Scholars Benjamin K. Sovacool and Michael H. Dworkin developed a platform called the “Energy Justice Framework” as the capstone of their book Energy Justice: Problems, Principles, and Practices. They define an energy-just world “as one that equitably shares both the benefits and burdens involved in the production and consumption of energy services, as well as one that is fair in how it treats people and communities in energy decision-making (Sovacool and Dworkin 5). In their framework, they propose eight principles that would bring about energy justice. For this case study, the three most relevant elements of the framework are Sustainability, Due Process, and Responsibility. This case study is framed as an energy injustice because Ecuador fails to fulfill any of these principles. While trying to balance conservation and development, Ecuador has failed to fully do either, leaving both the people and the environment with inadequate protection.



Sustainability means development that meets current needs while ensuring that the needs of future generations can also be met (Sovacool and Dworkin 369). Escribano’s description of Ecuadorean energy policy presents an energy injustice for sustainability in two ways: first, the energy needs of the present are not being met, and critical environmental sacrifices are being made, which will negatively impact future generations. Ecuador suffers from severe poverty, and not all citizens have access to electricity (Escribano 153, 155). As Escribano points out, Ecuador’s best hope for revenues to remedy these issues is the oil industry (154). The lucrative nature of many extractive industries makes them a tempting option for quick economic boosts, but often these processes come with many negative externalities (Griswold 3). This trend continues in Ecuador. Correa, the current president, espouses a platform of redistributive programs to alleviate poverty, and these are mainly funded through oil revenues. However, since Correa came to power in 2007, these programs have had limited success. Clearly, then, Ecuador is failing to meet the needs of the present. Additionally, Ecuador does not satisfy the other requirements of “Sustainability” because its policies are damaging to landmark ecological areas, such as allowing oil drilling in the Amazon. Sustainability in the Energy Justice lens would require an ideal balance between conservation and development, and Ecuador has not yet found that balance.


Due Process

Sovacool and Dworkin’s next principle, Due Process, asserts respect as a fundamental aspect of energy justice (368). Both respect for human rights and laws are necessary to achieve energy justice. Once again, Ecuador fails to meet this requirement. Escribano’s article focuses on the conservation efforts in Ecuador, specifically the Constitution’s assertion of Nature Rights (155). Ecuador is the first country in the world to include a declaration of the rights of nature in its constitution (Art. 71, Ecuador Const.) and these rights are on par with the rights of humans. While Correa’s government claims to be pro-conservation, in reality, little has been done to ensure conservation and that these rights of nature are upheld (Escribano 154). The best example of the injustices brought on by a lack of due process is the failure of the Yasuni Initiative. The proposal was intended to raise funds internationally to protect the Yasuni area of the Amazon, the most bio-diverse area in the Western Hemisphere (156), from oil drilling. If Correa could gather half of the money that could be made from drilling, he would preserve the area. The funds were not raised before the deadline, and the Yasuni region is now available for drilling. The legal loopholes exploited for the Yasuni initiative are part of another large trend in extractive industry legislation, in that due process is not given (Rabe and Borick 326). For Ecuador, despite the government’s insistence in its own conservationism, upholding the rights of nature directly contradicts its ability to provide for its citizens. Escribano’s article demonstrates that injustice results from a lack of respect for both the people’s and the environment’s rights.



Finally, Sovacool and Dworkin describe the principle of responsibility as essentially the requirement for nations to reduce negative externalities, particularly for the environment (371). Once again, Ecuador’s energy policy fails to reduce externalities, creating injustices in society. One example of Ecuador’s shirking of responsibility is the Yasuni initiative itself, since the proposal essentially places responsibility on the international community (Escribano 156). Additionally, because many Ecuadoreans, especially in rural or poor communities, are marginalized by new oil drilling or hydro plants and left without representation, the government is irresponsible toward its own citizens. These same citizens are the ones without access to the energy produced on their lands. Escribano’s article illustrates Ecuador’s balancing act between development and conservation, but doing both half-heartedly is irresponsible and ineffective.



In putting Escribano’s article in conversation with Sovacool and Dworkin’s Energy Justice Framework, the injustices in Ecuador’s energy policies become apparent. Balancing development and conservation has left both the Ecuadorean people and environment unprotected. By refusing to commit to development, Ecuador is sacrificing its people, who desperately need revenue from oil. By refusing to commit to conservation, Ecuador is sacrificing its environment, including some indigenous communities, who need protection from industry. Moving forward, it is clear that Ecuador must change its policy strategy to both uphold its constitutional rights for nature and people, while expanding its ability through other industries to gather revenue to alleviate poverty. Once the right balance is found, energy justice can be achieved in Ecuador.





Works Cited

Ecuador Const. Ch. 7, Art. 71. Web.            in-Ecuadors-Constitution.pdf

Escribano, Gonzalo. “Ecuador’s Energy Policy Mix: Development Versus Conservation and Nationalism with Chinese Loans.” Energy Policy 57 (2013): 152-159. ScienceDirect. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.

Griswold, Eliza. “The Fracturing of Pennsylvania.” The New York Times 17 Nov. 2011: Web.

Rabe, Barry G., and Christopher Borick. “Conventional Politics for Unconventional Drilling?” Review of Policy Research 30.3 (2013): 321-40. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

Sovacool, Benjamin K., and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice: Problems, Principles, and Practices. Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.

The World Factbook 2013-14. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013     .

Nigeria: Renewable Energies as Opportunities for Energy Justice


            Despite being a resource abundant country, Nigeria has a serious issue of energy poverty. In 2009, 58% of the country was without access to modern energy services (Sovacool 226). Energy poverty can be considered a deprivation in relation to diminishing impoverished peoples’ “choices to access certain material goods, assets, capabilities, freedoms and opportunities” (Pachauri 2084). The frameworks of availability, intragenerational equity, and sustainability identify current Nigerian energy injustices. However, there are feasible renewable energy sources that could help improve and reduce these energy injustices, especially in rural communities, which have the least access to modern energy sources.

Energy Background

Nigeria is one of the top members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and natural resource extraction is a mainstay of the Nigerian economy (Mohammed 258). However, an alarming number of Nigerians are without access to electricity. This disparity between resource richness and access is seen most acutely in rural regions of Nigeria. Only 11% of the rural Nigerian population has access to electricity as compared to the national rate of 42% (Mohammed 259). This has led to a heavy reliance on more primitive energy sources that have severe health and societal ramifications, including indoor air pollution, lack of refrigeration and medical care, and injuries incurred during fuel wood collection (Sovacool 228). The lack of access is due to poor energy grid systems and infrastructure. Rural communities are mostly located in more difficult terrains connected by bad roads and are often far away from connection points on utility grids (Shaaban 74). Continuing reliance on non-renewable energy sources is not sustainable as Nigeria’s fossil fuels are estimated to run out by the year 2050 (Shaaban 73).

Considering Nigeria’s inefficient use of its natural resources and their predicted depletion, alternate energy sources must be considered. In fact, Nigeria’s National Energy Policy (NEP) set a goal to provide accessible electricity to three-quarters of its population by 2020 and to broaden its energy options. Therefore, there is political precedent and governmental support to pursue energy sources such as renewable energies to improve electricity accessibility (Shaaban 79).

Renewable Energy Feasibility

Above ground in Nigeria there are several abundant renewable resources that have been otherwise untapped that can provide opportunities for energy justice. Many renewable energy sources are advantageous in that they can be purposefully created on a small-scale so that they do not have to connect to an electric grid, can be isolated, and use energy resources more efficiently (Sovacool 246).


            Biomass power sources come from agriculture, forests, municipal and animal wastes at a collective reserve estimate of 8×102 MJ (Shabaan 77). Considering that 80% of Nigeria’s landscape is cultivatable, agricultural residue, most especially from its cereal crops, is a feasible renewable energy source to pursue (Mohammed 260). Forest biomass is currently being used unsustainably due to rural individuals dependence on fuel woods for their most basic energy needs (Mohammed 261). Municipal waste conversion is best suited for Nigerian cities such as Lagos, whereas animal waste is more applicable for rural communities, especially in the northeast and northwestern parts of the countries that depend on livestock based farming. (Mohammed 262).


This is least feasible renewable energy source in Nigeria, as its potential is considered to be weak to moderate by scientists. Wind energy projects in rural communities have been failures so far due to lack of governmental support, financial shortages, and workers’ lack of systems knowledge (Mohammed 264). In the highly populated southern part of the nation the wind speeds are weak, except for in the coastal and offshore locations where vis-à-vis oil extraction occurs (e.g. Niger Delta) and will always be prioritized higher for economic purposes (Shabaan 77).


            Solar energy is likely the most feasible renewable energy source for remote rural communities that are disconnected from the national grid, as it can be highly efficient as a small-scale source. Solar energy is also highly abundant due to the amount radiated to the nation’s surface, in fact “the total energy demand of the nation could be met if only .1% of the total solar energy radiant on Nigeria’s land mass is converted at an efficiency of 1%” (Shabaan 76).


            Between the two types of hydropower, small and large, the former is best suited for supporting rural communities, as it is the least environmentally destructive, requires lower civil works, is conducive to Nigerian geography, and its power generation complements rural micro-economies livelihoods by helping with flood prevention, irrigation, and fishery (Shabaan 76).



Availability is an energy justice framework that examines the accessibility and reliability of electricity (Sovacool 367). Currently, Nigeria fails in the respect of accessibility as less than a majority of its citizens have access to electricity in the first place (Mohammed 259). Furthermore, the electricity that it does provide in unreliable due to faulty grid infrastructure and blackouts that cost the economy a billions dollars each year (Sovacool 228). By utilizing renewable energy sources to provide cleaner, efficient electricity the accessibility of electricity will be increased dramatically, especially within rural communities (Sovacool 246). Renewable energies are also more reliant as they provide infinite, uninterrupted energy flow. Furthermore, if these renewable energy projects are small scale they will circumvent the larger problem of a lacking efficient national grid by creating their own. Granted this is not completely solving the overall energy injustice of availability, but it does take great strides in improving rural communities accessibility to electricity and providing more reliable energy alternatives than woodstoves and diesel generators (Shaaban 74). This issue of providing better energy sources for rural areas transitions well into the next energy framework of intragenerational justice.



            Intragenerational justice addresses the distribution of energy in regards that every person has the right to energy access (Sovacool 367). Presently, the energy access distribution is skewed in the opposite favor of rural Nigerians due to ineffective grid infrastructure, which is an energy injustice. Harnessing renewable energy sources, specifically solar, small hydropower, and agricultural and animal biomass, would help establish modern energy accessibility in remote Nigeria and increase the percentage of rural Nigerians with electricity access to be closer to their city-dwelling counterparts. This framework is addressed in Nigeria’s National Energy Plan, by promoting the importance and support for increasing energy accessibility for all Nigerians and finding reliable sources for rural communities (Shaaban 79).



            The justice framework of sustainability means that resources must not be depleted completely nor harm the environment in their extraction. Nigeria’s current reliance on fossil fuels is not sustainable due to their aforementioned exhaustion by 2050 and their many environmentally damaging consequences, such as oil spills. Oil spills in Nigeria are especially common and are not only blaringly damaging to the environment and surrounding ecosystems, but they also lead to serious human health problems (Amnesty International). Renewable energy sources are covetable both for their infiniteness and their cleanliness, such as no CO2 emissions. Another sustainability injustice is the 70% of fuel consumption stemming from fuel wood alone. This dependency can be lessened by access to affordable other fuel sources via increased utilization of renewable energies; stricter forest protection policies; and educational awareness about the negative effects of deforestation (Mohammed 261).


Nigeria is on the precipice of decline due to its energy poverty and consequential energy injustices of availability, intragenerational access, and sustainability. However, the plentiful renewable energy sources of Nigeria have the capacity to provide increased modern energy access. Rural communities that have been disproportionally disadvantaged thus far could be most especially impacted. Effective market-based policies are crucial for the development and investment of renewable energies. Cultural challenges such as level of awareness and educational backgrounds must be addressed so that Nigerians can promote such renewable energy development themselves. It is critical to understand that this case study highlights current conflictions with energy justice frameworks but identifies a feasible pathway, via renewable energy sources, towards improving energy justice in Nigeria.





Bad Information: Oil Spills in Niger Delta. Amnesty International, 5-13.

Mohammed, Y., Mustafa, M., Bashir, N., & Mokhtar, A. (2013). Renewable energy resources for distributed power generation in Nigeria: A review of the potential. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, (22), 257-268.

Pachauri, S., Mueller, A., Kemmler, A., & Spreng, D. (2004). On Measuring Energy Poverty in Indian Households. World Development, 2083-2104.

 Shaaban, M., & Petinrin, J. (2013). Renewable energy potentials in Nigeria: Meeting rural energy needs. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, (29), 72-84.

Sovacool, B., & Dworkin, M. (2014). Global energy justice: Problems, principles, and practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Ecuador Case Study: Hydroelectricity Leading to Energy Injustice

Ecuador: Hydroelectricity Leading to Energy Injustice

The Ecuadorian government has not taken adequate measures to protect the intergenerational equity of its people, make informed decisions regarding energy policy, and has failed to responsibly protect its environment within the Amazon region. Indeed, the state and policymakers have sought to greatly expand hydroelectric projects, in order to diversify their energy resources. Specifically, Ecuador has sought to ween itself off of international oil, and has taken into account environmental damage within the country as a result of oil production. The country has repeatedly encroached upon indigenous lands, leading to significant amounts of pollution within these areas.1 However, Ecuador heavily relies on profits from their oil sector, with over 50% of revenues coming from oil taxes.2 In addition to these oil-related environmental damages, the Ecuadorian government is embarking upon a dangerous journey in their rapid expansion of hydroelectricity in the Amazon region.
Intergenerational Equity for Natives
The expansion of hydroelectric projects in the Amazonian territories of northeastern Ecuador greatly impacts the intergenerational equity of native communities. These rural indigenous groups have been historically underrepresented and marginalized in Ecuadorian policymaking, and subsequently, are victims of policies that directly impact their ways of life, as well as the well-being of future generations. Below, this paper will outline how increased hydroelectric dams in the Amazon region will impact the intergenerational equity of native communities in the affected areas, according to the energy justice framework in Sovacool and Dworkin.3 Recently, the decision by President Rafael Correa to significantly expand Ecuador’s hydroelectric capabilities has infringed upon the rights of these indigenous, Amazonian peoples. Specifically, the encroachment of these hydroelectric projects into the Amazon will greatly damage, and has the possibility to destroy, their unique ways of life. In addition to this, the case study argues that the environmental damages caused by the development of hydroelectric dams in the Amazon will significantly detract from the quality of life for future generations. A key consequence of these dams is the fragmentation of not only the Amazon River, but also some of its tributaries.4 Indeed, it has been proven that these bodies of water are sources of livelihood, as well as actual sustenance to these indigenous communities.
The Ecuadorian government approved two massive dams in the Amazon – the Agoyán and San Francisco projects. According to the case study, these hydroelectric dams have already destroyed eighteen water sources in the Rio Blanco and Rio Negro communities – both of which are primarily populated by native settlements. More shockingly, these water resources span a distance of over 28 miles, and supply drinking water and fishing grounds to hundreds of families in the affected area.5 It is evident from the text that these two dams have permanently diverted important water resources in the Rio Blanco and Rio Negro native communities. Building off of this, it is also clear that the hundreds of families in these settlements will be forced to find new homes, once their supply of drinking water is exhausted. The Agoyán and San Francisco dam projects have significantly and irreversibly caused damage to not only the Rio Blanco and Rio Negro settlements themselves, but also to the future generations of these communities. Due to the diversion of water resources from the dams, both current and future generations will be unable to access drinking water, or fishing grounds, in the 28 mile affected area. In addition to this, the impact of hydroelectric dams extends beyond the damage to water resources. A primary example of this physical disruption is the Coca Codo Sinclair dam project, which would include “extensive road-building and transmission line construction in primary forest[s].”6 Clearly, this infrastructure development in previously undeveloped wilderness will have a massive environmental impact on these lands. In addition to this, forty of the proposed hydroelectric dams will be built either upstream or downstream of an indigenous community.7 This plethora of proposed projects will undoubtedly impact these communities in a negative way.

Lack of Accountable Energy Decision-Making
With regards to the process of expanding hydroelectric projects into the Amazon, the Ecuadorian government has not followed methods that are consistent with “fair, transparent, and accountable … decision-making.”8 Specifically, the presidency of Rafael Correa and the Amazonian Regional Eco Institute (ECORAE) have failed to consider the rights of various indigenous groups in the Amazon. Despite this, the Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 affirms natural rights – with Article 400 including specific provisions for the protection of nature and biodiversity.9 The case study asserts that both the Ecuadorian president, as well as the Amazonian Regional Eco Institute, have exploited loopholes in the Constitution in order to advance and expedite hydroelectric projects in the region. Following this, the Ecuadorian state has argued that since nature is owned by the government, they can use it to advance national interests – in this case, expanding hydroelectricity. These dams, in turn, have greatly impacted native communities in the eastern portion of Ecuador. According to the case study, “The populations of eastern Ecuador are not only subjected to a broad range of socio-environmental conflicts, they must also face increased poverty and inequality in the redistribution of resources.”10 It is clear from this passage that the government and its associated institutes, in planning these hydroelectric projects, did not take into account the various social, as well as environmental, impacts in their decision-making. On top of this, the relationship between ECORAE and indigenous groups has not progressed significantly since its inception in the early 1990s.11 Based on the actions of the Ecuadorian government, as well as prominent policymakers associated with hydroelectricity, the state has not acted in a manner that is consistent with fair and accountable decision-making.

Failure to Responsibly Protect the Environment
The Ecuadorian government, in its quest to diversify energy resources, has failed to protect the natural environment within the Amazon region. It is well known that this region is home to a plethora of species, many of which have not been discovered. Specifically, the article by Finer and Jenkins asserts that the Amazon “is documented to contain extraordinary richness … namely amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants.”12 On top of this, the authors argue that the installation of more hydroelectric dams will severely damage the biodiversity of the region as a whole. A primary example is the disruption of fish breeding patterns, due to fragmentation of the Amazon River and its associated tributaries. It is clear from the case studies that the Ecuadorian state did not adequately take into account the effects of hydroelectric dams on these long-distance migratory fish species, thereby causing significant environmental damage. In addition to this, the depletion and subsequent flooding of forested areas within the Amazon may contribute to global climate change. Specifically, the loss of forestry will lead to less greenhouse gases absorbed by trees within the Amazon.13 It is evident that Ecuadorian policymakers have failed to take adequate measures in the protection and preservation of the natural environment within the Amazon.

With regards to the evidence presented above, it is clear from their actions that the Ecuadorian government has not taken adequate measures to protect the environment in the Amazon region. First, the expansion of hydroelectric dams is detrimental to current, as well as future, ways of life for the people in the affected areas. Second, Ecuadorian policymakers have not exercised accountable decision-making in their decisions to build hydroelectric dams in ecologically vulnerable areas. Lastly, the government as a whole has systematically failed to protect these sensitive areas, resulting in significant damage to not only the Amazon region, but also to the environment as a whole.

Environmental Resource Center. “The True Costs of Petroleum Map: The World.” The True Costs of Petroleum (2003).

Finer, Matt, and Clinton N. Jenkins. “Proliferation of Hydroelectric Dams in the Andean Amazon and Implications for Andes-Amazon Connectivity.” Plos ONE 7, no. 4 (April 2012): 1-9. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 14, 2015).

O’Rourke, Dara and Sarah Connolly. “Just Oil? The Distribution of Environmental and Social Impacts of Oil Production and Consumption.” Annual Review of Environment & Resources 28, no. 1 (2003): 589.

Razook, Andrea. “Defined Territories, Spaces in Transition: “Amazonization” and the Expansion of Hydroenergetic Frontiers in the “Baños de Agua Santa” Canton, Tungurahua, Ecuador.” Spaces & Flows: An International Journal Of Urban & Extra Urban Studies 3, no. 1 (January 2013): 89-95. SocINDEX with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed March 14, 2015).

Sovacool, Benjamin K, and Michael H. Dworkin. Global Energy Justice: Problems, Principles, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.