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Affected Peoples

Large dams have forced some 40-80 million people from their lands in the past six decades, according to the World Commission on Dams. Indigenous, tribal, and peasant communities have been particularly hard hit. These legions of dam refugees have, in the great majority of cases, been economically, culturally and psychologically devastated.


Dam-Affected People in India:
India’s 4,300 dams have submerged about 37,500 square kilometers and have displaced at least 42 million people.

Those displaced by reservoirs are only the most visible victims of large dams. Millions more have lost land and homes to the canals, irrigation schemes, roads, power lines and industrial developments that accompany dams. Many more have lost access to clean water, food sources and other natural resources in the dammed area. Millions have suffered from the diseases that dams and large irrigation projects in the tropics bring.

In response to the massive human rights problems and environmental impacts of large dams, a very effective international movement arose to fight for change in current dam-building practices. In addition to directly affected people’s groups, the movement includes thousands of environmental, human rights, and social activist groups around the world. International dam-affected people’s meetings in Brazil and Thailand in recent years have brought together dam-affected peoples and their allies to network and strategize, and call for better planning of water- and energy-supply projects. And every year, groups from around the world show their solidarity with those dispossessed by dams on the International Day of Action, a global event to raise awareness about the impacts of dams and the values of undammed rivers.

The mission of IRN’s regional campaign work is to focus on the issues of dam-affected peoples. To learn more about dam-affected peoples by region, visit our regional campaign pages:

Africa | China | Latin America | South Asia | South East Asia


Dams, Rivers & Rights: An Action Guide for Communities Affected by Dams

Dams, Rivers & Rights

Dams, Rivers and Rights is the perfect tool for anyone threatened by dam construction. The guide provides general information about dams and their impacts, and gives concrete ideas about how to challenge dams. Filled with case studies of real dam struggles and helpful illustrations, the guide offers practical suggestions on how to campaign to protect your rivers and rights.

Visit the feature page for this publication.