Cleaning Up the Big Muddy: A Meta-Synthesis of the Research on the Social Impact of Dams
Kirchherr, J., Pohlner, H. and Charles, K. (2016). Cleaning Up the Big Muddy: A Meta-Synthesis of the Research on the Social Impacts of Dams. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 60: 115-125
33 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 26, 2016
Scholars have been exploring the social impacts of dams for over 50 years, but a lack of systematic approaches has resulted in many research gaps remaining. This paper presents the first systematic review of the literature on the social impacts of dams. For this purpose, we built a sample of 217 articles published in the past 25 years via key word searches, expert consultations and bibliography reviews. All articles were assessed against an aggregate matrix framework on the social impact of dams, which combines 27 existing frameworks. We find that existing literature is highly biased with regard to: perspective (45% negative versus 5% positive); dam size (large dams are overrepresented); spatial focus (on the resettlement area); and temporal focus (5–10 years ex-post resettlement). Additionally, there is bias in terms of whose views are included, with those of dam developers rarely examined by scholars. These gaps need to be addressed in future research to advance our knowledge on the social impact of dams to support more transparency in the trade-offs being made in dam development decisions.
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