Sunday, October 31, 2010

Discussion Question 7 (Tools) comments due Nov 2nd

Choose a recent large development project, such as a dam, sewage treatment plant, shopping mall, highway, or housing development, and examine some of the costs and benefits of the project in terms of biological diversity, economic prosperity, or human health. Who pays the cost and who receives the benefits?


Emily Sampson said...

I chose to look into a large dam development project particularly because I find the way a dam can alter the environment around it very intriguing. One example I came across was the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Laos, which began in 2010. This project uses water’s gravity from the Nam Theun River to produce cleaner, cheaper energy for the community as well as nearby countries, such as Thailand. This hydropower has the ability to increase economic growth and reduce poverty for Laos. However, in a recently published article, Naho Mirumachi and Jacopo Torriti highlight some major concerns about the project.
One key concern the article addresses is how the public in the surrounding community participates and accepts the project. With access to the project every step of the way, stakeholders can voice their concerns and verify that the costs will outweigh the benefits for them in the long run. Some costs include watershed addition by the dam, displacement of families and homes, loss of farming land and/or forests, and impacts on fisheries downstream. In addition to an alteration in fish diversity downstream, the entire river ecosystem past the dam is affected due to lack of water flow and mixing. Species diversity should be noted and taken into account, especially if some are endemic or at risk of being endangered.
While there are many costs to such a large-scale project, the benefits may be of more value to the country as a whole. These benefits include cheaper power generation, greater economic growth, increased water supply, and increased flood control. By providing cheaper hydropower to other countries, specifically Thailand, the project has the ability to generate more money for the country and improve its own economy. The project also allows the country to better serve its people in a more efficient, more sustainable way.
These benefits may improve life for the country as a whole, but only those few living in the community surrounding the Nam Theun 2 River will pay the costs. For these reasons, the article specifies how important public access and involvement throughout the entirety of the project truly is.


Mirumachi, N. and Torriti, J. The use of public participation and economic appraisal for public involvement in large-scale hydropower projects: Case study of the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project. Energy Policy: 47 (2012) 125-132.

Kirby Welsh said...

I chose to focus on a local developmental project, “The Bluffs” in Goleta, CA. The Bluffs are right along the Santa Barbara Coast and consist of 62 single-family residences. Construction of this housing development is expected to be finished by Winter 2013. The Bluffs are surrounded by the Ellwood Mesa, The Ellwood Monarch Grove, and rare coastal wetlands.
There was a very heavy debate when the project was being composed and considered by the community, over the protection of the wetland area, and the danger the building could pose to the natural habitat area. Production Manager Robert W. Comstock traded 137 acres of seaside property neighboring the Ellwood Mesa for a less environmentally fragile location close by to start the building. According to information from the Bluffs information website, all parties involved were happy, however I think the community and local inhabitants still didn’t get exactly what they wanted.
Although Comstock was able to come to an agreement and trade land for preservation purposes, his project still resides in the middle of what was an open area and natural habitat. His project provides nice homes and coastal access for human beings, however it has the potential to disrupt the wetland habitat. The nearby monarch preserve is also at risk, and the environmental impacts of fragmenting the natural habitat, even if hypothetically considered, still have yet to appear. Since it’s such a recent project, it’s hard to say what exactly will happen, but the fragmentation of the area is probably not going to help the habitat. That being said, it could’ve been much worse, and I’m glad that the city of Goleta was able to come to a compromise with the Bluff’s project manager. More information can be found at