Politics and governance

The University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute (GDI) is leading the FutureDAMS work on the politics and governance of dam building.The University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute (GDI) is leading the FutureDAMS work on the politics and governance of dam building.

The central concern of the FutureDAMS project is to understand how decisions about dams and connected electricity infrastructure are made. This range from the identification of dams over other infrastructure as the preferred solution to perceived energy, food, environmental and water needs to the site selection, design, construction and operation of dams. While infrastructure development, including dam construction, is technologically challenging, it is also fundamentally political, with distributional and ideological dimensions that are a vital consideration.

As such the politics research stream examines how interests, institutions and ideas shape dam decision making in two case studies—Ethiopia and the Nile Basin; and Ghana and the Volta Basin, focusing on three main research themes:

  • The political economy of the energy sector, the power-generation mix and distribution of electricity
  • The politics of building capacity in dam planning and operation
  • Decision making around dam location and design

The politics and governance team:

Politics and governance research

Research update video:

This video was produced for the FutureDAMS annual forum (November 2020) by Barnaby Dye on his current research progress.

Politics and social science: Ghana, India and The Manual

Construction of Calamities in the Uttarakhand Himalaya

Read the article by FutureDAMS Postdoctoral researcher, Shruti Jain, on the recent dam disasters in the Himalaya, published in Economics and Political Weekly - Construction of Calamities in the Uttarakhand Himalaya.Hydropower projects on the Uttarakhand rivers have...

Prepare to fail? Dam development in the face of rising disasters

By Udisha Saklani On the morning of 7th February 2021, India’s Dhauliganga Valley in the northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand witnessed a tragic flash flood, which was set off by a breach in the Nanda Devi glacier. As a large chunk of snow, fresh water and rocks...

Politics, power and ambition in Ethiopia’s electricity sector

By Fana Gebresenbet, Biruk Terrefe and Tom Lavers In 1991, Ethiopia had 370MW of installed electric power and 4% grid connectivity, one of the lowest rates in the world. In the 27 years of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) rule, both of...

New working paper: India’s development cooperation with Africa

A new working paper by Barnaby Dye analyses how India’s development cooperation with Africa has significantly changed. Founded after India’s independence, the country’s development cooperation programme was rhetorically framed as demand-led, non-interventionist and...

Is the dam-age over? The growth of dam removals in America

By Barnaby Dye and François Edwards This week the BBC featured an article describing the largest-scale project of dam removal to date on the Klamath River in the Western USA. The project involves the gradual disassembling of four out of eight hydroelectric dams. These...

The political power controlling Ghana’s electricity system and the ensuing crises

By Barnaby Dye On the 27 August 2012, a small group of pirates triggered the first of two major power crises in Ghana. Attempting to escape from the Togolese Navy on a captured oil tanker, the pirates left the ship’s anchor trailing. It snagged on the West African Gas...

Webinar – Meeting Africa’s Latest Dam Builders: The Indian ExIm Bank, ‘Entrepreneurial’ Companies and the Outcomes of South-South Cooperation

Barnaby Dye, The Global Development Institute, University of Manchester Tuesday 14th July 2020 Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/wq6uGTxnAbc https://youtu.be/wq6uGTxnAbc In the 21st Century, India has become a dam builder in Africa. In line with booming development...

Dams and Covid-19: Some Thoughts

By David Hulme and Barnaby Dye, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester Today we live in a lockdown world as the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps across countries and continents: air travel has virtually ceased; billions of people have been told to stay at...

NEW working paper – The role of the state in development: Rwanda

By Barnaby Dye What factors drive countries’ economic development? Is it still possible for Africa to follow the trajectory of the Asian states that saw rapid industrialisation in the latter half of the 20th century? A new working paper by Benjamin Chemouni and...

DW Radio’s Living Planet: What are the lessons learned from Brazil’s Brumadinho dam collapse?

Listen to DW's radio show 'Living Planet' to hear FutureDAMS' Barnaby Dye talk about the safety of dams, how we can improve the planning of integrated water-energy-food-environment systems using the FutureDAMS integrated assessment toolset and what a sustainable dam...

New Working Paper: What holds back dam building? The role of Brazil in the stagnation of dams in Tanzania

By Barnaby Dye Africa has experienced a dam boom since the mid-2000s with projects across the continent being built by the so-called rising powers like China, ‘traditional donors’ (e.g. the USA and Germany) and established international development organisation such...

New research: idealogical drivers of Rwanda’s electricity boom

By Barnaby Dye A boom in constructing electricity infrastructure is underway in Africa – whether in generation plants or power lines. However, there aren’t many studies explaining why this building wave is taking place. My new paper  presents a detailed case study of...

FutureDAMS lecture – Anna Mdee

'The missing middle: addressing tensions in interdisciplinary 'solutions-focused' water research projects' The latest FutureDAMS seminar was delivered by Dr Anna Mdee, Associate Professor in International Development in the School of Politics and International Studies...

New Research: Continuity or Change in the Infrastructure Turn?

Development is undergoing an infrastructure turn, no more so than in resurgent dam building. But how are new projects planned and constructed? Are we seeing the underestimation of economic, environmental and social costs? Have past critiques changed infrastructure...

What to do with old dams?

By Barnaby Dye Many industrialised countries in Europe and America built dams in the early 20th, or even 19th century. As these infrastructures age, their services may be better replaced by other technologies.  Often, this happens when sedimentation builds up in a...

The context and politics of decision making on large dams in Ghana: an overview

FutureDAMS Ghana team have written their first working paper for the project. It provides a comprehensive overview of the history of dams in the Ghana up to the present day, covering their technical details, planning processes and politics. This piece of work is...

Dammed Dams: Prioritising Long-Term Gain or Short-Term Completion

By Barnaby Dye The movement for dam reforms in the 1990s generated more detailed methodologies in assessing environmental and social impacts. They also advocated reform in the contracting process whereby the credentials of the prospective companies are considered with...

Theorising the political economy of dams: towards a research agenda 

The FutureDAMS working paper series is now fully underway. The latest piece is by two researchers on the project, Dr Tom Lavers and Dr Barnaby Dye. They present an overview of the literature on the politics of dams, which has been analysed from a range of disciplinary...

Dam building by the illiberal modernisers: ideology and changing rationales in Rwanda and Tanzania

The FutureDAMS working paper series has begun! Barnaby Dye, a research associate on the project, has produced the first of these papers, focusing on the resurgence of dams. Barnaby’s work analyses the why of this notable infrastructure-building trend. Taking...

Dam Failures Demonstrate the Need for Effective Regulation

By Barnaby Dye  The Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil has shocked the world, ranking as one of the worst hydraulic infrastructure failures. An earth-wall dam collapsed releasing run-off water from a large mine operated by Vale. 110 are confirmed dead and authorities...