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Resettler choices and long-term consequences of involuntary resettlement caused by construction of Kotmale Dam in Sri Lanka

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Involuntary resettlement caused by dam construction, especially in developing countries, is being criticized as an additional cause of impoverishment of the poor population being resettled. Despite current improvements in planning and implementation of involuntary resettlement, there is little experience or research on the medium- to long-term consequences of involuntary resettlement on those being resettled.

Within the comprehensive water resource development programme in Sri Lanka under the Mahaweli Accelerated Development Programme, Kotmale Dam was constructed in 1985 for the purpose of hydroelectric power generation and irrigation water supply. Construction of the dam caused ≈ 3000 households to be evacuated and relocated. There were two resettlement alternatives for the families being affected by the dam construction project. The first was to stay close to the reservoir, and receive smaller land plots. The other was to settle in newly developed areas for Mahaweli Development Programme, being located >100 km from original villages, but receive larger, irrigated land plots. In order to determine the consequences after 25 years of the resettlement caused by construction of Kotmale Dam, these authors conducted socioeconomic interview surveys of ≈250 households in three resettlement areas, including Mahaweli System H, System B, System C and villages located near the reservoir site.

The study results indicated that the majority of the resettlers perceived their livelihoods as being improved after their resettlement. Furthermore, the majority of them expressed their satisfaction regarding their resettlement choices and their current livelihoods, either in the resettlement sites located near the reservoir or in resettlement sites located far from the original settlement sites. However, their satisfaction is usually based on different perceptions on the part of the resettlers that reflect different strategies for coping with involuntary resettlement. The major factors affecting the choices of resettlers were land ownership and/or the educational opportunities for their children. These survey results indicate that the resettled people made conscious choices for their future, especially for their children. For future resettlement programmes, these authors propose that it is important that the considerations of future generations be incorporated in a feasible, sustainable manner, particularly in regard to educational opportunities.
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Keywords: Kotmale Dam; Mahaweli; involuntary resettlement; resettlement policy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, 2: Department of Geography, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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