Values and Knowledges in Decision-making on Environmentally Disruptive Infrastructure Projects: Insights From Large Dams and Mines

Sharachchandra Lele, Daniela Del Bene, Duygu Avcı, Tatiana Roa-Avendaño, Brototi Roy, Geetanjoy Sahu, Maureen Harris, Deborah Moore

Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability | Oct 2023

Large infrastructure projects generate irreducible trade-offs between different societal values towards nature. We asked what kinds of values and knowledges are articulated in decision-making around these projects, and specifically how well marginalised are values and the values and knowledges of marginalised stakeholders incorporated in it. Focusing on dams and mines, we chose and systematically analysed a set of well-documented cases from the Environmental Justice Atlas to answer this question. We found that there is substantial overlap between the values and knowledges articulated by proponents and opponents of such projects: values for human life, material livelihood and well-being are invoked by both sides, as is modern scientific knowledge, while relational value for nature and experiential knowledge are highlighted by ecosystem-dependent communities. It is, however, the lack of a value for democratic process and for justice towards marginalised people, that contributes the most to environmental concerns being overlooked in decision-making, thereby obstructing transformative change.