Social and Environmental Impacts of the James Bay Hydroelectric Project


169 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1837-1
DDC 333.91'09714115




Edited by James F. Hornig
Reviewed by Richard G. Kuhn

Richard G. Kuhn is an associate professor of geography at the University
of Guelph.


The construction of the James Bay hydroelectric development has had a
profound impact on the social, cultural, and economic conditions of the
local inhabitants in addition to the environmental impacts associated
with such a grandiose project. Continued interest in the impacts that
this project had are fueled by contemporary and ongoing plans and
proposals for further dam projects. Much can and has been learned from
the past two decades about the environmental and social consequences of
the James Bay Project.

This volume contains seven chapters; two comprise an overview section
while the remainder focus on various social and physical impacts. The
first two chapters provide an excellent context for the subsequent
analysis. The second chapter, “Establishing a Frame of Reference,”
is particularly good in summarizing the myriad effects of the James Bay
Project on both the environment and the Cree who are affected by the
dam. In fact, this chapter alone makes the book worthwhile. Similarly,
the chapter focusing on elevated mercury levels in the water and
fish—a consequence generally unforeseen and not properly managed—is
one of the clearest and most concisely written. It is extremely useful
for those previously unfamiliar with the issue as well as for readers
who want to learn about the effect of mercury on

the health and livelihood of the local Cree residents.

In general, the book provides a sympathetic and excellent account of
the effects of the James Bay Project, particularly on local populations.
Issues of empowerment, health, art, and culture are addressed along with
biophysical impacts. The authors and editor are to be congratulated. The
prose throughout the volume is clear; maps, tables, photographs, and
figures are very useful, as is a chronology of the development of the
dam from its announcement in 1971 through 1998.


“Social and Environmental Impacts of the James Bay Hydroelectric Project,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,