Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On the environmental consequences of dams

I post the following as it covers a possible area of future research on the "economics of dams" although it is on a distant burner at present.

This article touches on the economic and environmental consquences of China's previous desire to build dams, provide electricity and reduce flooding.

New dam repeats ‘stupid mistake’ [FT]

To its opponents, China’s Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River is all the more tragic because it has a historical precedent. Built in the 1950s, the huge Sanmenxia – literally Three Gates Gorge – dam in central China is today regarded as a catastrophic failure with senior Communist party officials blaming it for many of the environmental and social problems that afflict the region.
Talking about the Sanmenxia dam this offical is clearly upset.
“This dam was really a stupid mistake,” says An Qingyuan, a former Communist party boss of Shaanxi province, the region most directly affected by the project and its aftermath. “We should consider all such projects from a scientific perspective and if it’s not scientific we shouldn’t do these stupid things. It was so stupid, stupid, I say.

The basic science behind the failure is not to hard to work out:
Despite a complete reconstruction in the early 1960s, sedimentation continued and spread up river, eventually leading to the very floods it was meant to prevent and causing Mao to angrily pronounce that if the dam did not work it should be blown up. By then, more than 400,000 people had been forcefully evicted to make way for the dam and its reservoir and many were living in slum-like conditions in nearby towns.



----t h rive---- said...

Here in BC we are dealing with a practical onslaught of Run-of-the-River power production which employs minimal (if any) damming to produce power.

Creating power with water will always have its consequences. If it's not massive valley flooding, it's 100's of small diversions of streams and rivers basically resulting in (at least) separated ecological harm.

The trade off with these little producers is the low emissions, and low impact on the surrounding land

*not meant to be blatant marketing

Femin said...

Dams can result in Earthquakes