Originally Posted by sj
Yep got to keep the trash in Africa hungry and with outpower. When are those losers gonna realize that they need to stop trying to feed their kids so we can boat and play there once in our life time. Go to Africa once boys then get back to me on how you feel?
I never suggested keeping the kids without food so I could boat. But if history is any precedent on these sorts of projects, this project may not feed as many hungry kids or light as many bulbs in the local community as you might want to believe.
The problem is these kinds of massive infrastructure projects generally don't return much to the people we're supposed to be helping. Reputable NGOs have generally shown time and again that these super poor countries benefit most from small scale, widely dispersed local projects. These emphasize simple technologies that are easy to learn, maintain and where knowledge transfer within the community is attainable. Furthermore, by having the locals build it themselves, the money they generate stays within the local economy. However, these solitary, massive, technically complicated projects often require more expensive maintenance, may require the said foreign firms to operate them indefinitely because no one local knows how, and of course profits are exported. And in the end, you may just find the Ugandan's themselves can't afford to buy the very electricity you just supplied them with, because someone else is willing to pay more.
There's a well documented case of this sort of scenario that occurred in Bolivia a few years back (hunt for it at thenation.com if you're interested). Bechtel was contracted to build high-tech centralized water treatment plants to deliver potable water to the local population, who had previously been using water sources of more questionable quality. Sounds noble right? Except the technologies required a lot more money to maintain than the old systems, and because there was no one who understood the new technologies, Bechtel had to staff operators from the Western World, who needless to say, don't work for Bolivian salaries. The result was that Bolivians found their water bills quadrupled after installation of the new system. When many of them simply couldn't afford the new bills, the company started disconnecting people. This is what triggered the angry mob. The angry mob eventually chased out the company and the previously right wing Bolivian government was thrown out in favor the left wing they now have. Because of cases like these, as well as the free trade, privitization rules that World Bank makes conditional for their loans, South America in general finally got pissed enough with World Bank that they established their own Bank of the South for development projects and to decrease US influence on their domestic policies (The president of World Bank is appointed by the US president, honorable past presidents include Paul Wolfowitz, the chief proponent and planner of the Iraq War. Believe me, World Bank's present leadership has no ethical dilemma with running poor countries into debt for the profits of wealthy first world corporate profits. Its their MO).
Thing is, the whole Bolivian situation could probably have been avoided with simple, smarter, less corrupt policies. Groundwater wells, and simple septic systems, if properly designed, are a much cheaper and distributed way of supplying water and treating wastes in an effective manner. The know how that goes into operating such systems is much easier to teach to locals than operating a centralized plant. Further more, research we have going on here at the School of Mines has been showing that a properly designed septic system can actually have fewer adverse environmental and human health impacts and do a better job of treating wastewater than centralized plants, here in the US or elsewhere.
Well that's enough of topic discussion for now