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Modernization Projects: Dams

Developing South Asia: From Colonialism to Globalization

Modernization Projects: Megadams

1. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), est. 1933

Scientific planning and social engineering—

Given broad powers over the social, economic and environmental

contours of the region.

Basic idea: turn one dam into a mechanism for economic improvement of an entire region.

Context for the TVA:

The Depression

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)

The New Deal

‘Oakies’ and the problem of rural southern poverty (see John

Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, also a feature film)

Tennessee River and periodic flooding—problem of topsoil erosion


Farming- from subsistence to fertilisers (phosphates v nitrates), crop

yields, crop rotation

Displacement and model (white) worker communities, housing, school,

cooperative industries, and the Red Peril

Rural electrification- light and refrigeration

1930s US: 90% urban Americans had electricity; 10% rural Americans

2. TVA and international development

David Lilienthal and TVA: Democracy on The March (1944)

Democracy- decentralisation, grass-roots, re-educative properties

TVA as an example of inclusive development, allowing people

control over their own economic futures while providing for

economic growth

Plans for a ‘Yangtze Valley Authority’ in Sun Yat-Sen’s pre-Revolutionary


Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC)—India

Damodar River Basin in southern Bihar (Jharkhand)-

DVC built four dams and a network of reservoirs behind them, power stations, irrigation canals in a heavily industrialised region

Mekong River Valley – The Cold War, Southeast Asia and US (then) Vice-

President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ)

TVA on the Mekong plus ‘Miracle Rice’