An Environmental Anthropology: The Effects of the Yacyretá Dam on Communities in Misiones, Argentina in Comparison to the Economic and Environmental Well-being of the Pilcomayo River Basin
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Do large dam projects create a “sustainable improvement of human welfare” for those directly affected by a dam or not (WCD 2000, 2)? This question is central to a major debate in international development. This thesis argues that although there may be benefits of leaving a river to run its natural course, the economic gains associated with the implementation of a large hydropower dam bring greater socioeconomic benefits to the community in question. Despite environmental changes and economic obstacles associated with the Yacyretá Dam, over time, the people that depend on the Paraná River have experienced a significant “sustainable improvement of human welfare” compared to the residents along the Pilcomayo River (WCD 2000, 2). The benefits of allowing a river to run freely are the forgone opportunity costs that would be associated with the construction of a dam, such as dam-related downstream and upstream flooding. However, economic benefits such as job growth and access to electricity have the potential to outweigh these environmental costs.