View Poll Results: Dams, are they necessary?

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  • YES

    6 75.00%
  • NO

    2 25.00%
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Thread: Dams - Temples of doom or development?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Veteran Hubber jaiganes's Avatar
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    Dams - Temples of doom or development?

    I was reading an article by one Mr.N,Thillai Govindhan in Thinnai titled "Anaiyai kattinaargal adivayitril adithaargal" (Eng translation: they built the dam and destroyed our lives). It is a poignant article by a farmer which details all major irrigation dams built in Thamizh nadu have later on became a bane to the people who depended on the river for livelihood. In the age where environmental activists across the globe are fighting huge dam projects launched by ambitious governments, the original thinking of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in embracing Dams as a panacea to all problems facing India into question. There is a question of hydroelectric power and how dams fullfil that need. This link from environmental literacy tries to answer that question. After reading the article, the argument against dams makes more sense to me. At the same time, felt that this is an issue that needs to be discussed thorughly, hence opening this topic up for discussion. Let us hear from our hubbers for more..
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  3. #2
    Senior Member Veteran Hubber jaiganes's Avatar
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    Here is yet another link that explains why there is falling watertable and disappearing acquatic life from our rivers. It is a compelling argument against dams.
    Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    - Gore Vidal

  4. #3
    Moderator Veteran Hubber Badri's Avatar
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    Hi JG: Thanks for bringing up an interesting discussion topic. Before we proceed, you had provided a few links. Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to give a brief summary of what those links contain? Just a couple of paragraphs maybe - one on the pros and other on the cons to jumpstart the discussion?

    I tried one of those links and ended up with many more, and before getting lost in cyberspace, I retraced my steps. No doubt, many other hubbers might share the same thought, so it would really help if you gave a quick summary. If it is not too much trouble, that is.
    When we stop labouring under the delusion of our cosmic self-importance, we are free of hindrance, fear, worry and attachment. We are liberated!!!

  5. #4
    Moderator Veteran Hubber Badri's Avatar
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    Before anyone else can use the cliche, let me! There are two sides to any coin.

    There, that's done. Now let us see which side of this coin outweighs the other.

    Some of the Pros

    a) Flood Control - Floods affected some 65 million people in the world between 72-96. Dams have helped control much of this

    b) Irrigation - Dams help influence 12-16% of food production

    c) Power Generation :19% of the worlds total electricy supply, in 150 countries. 24 countries depend on dams for 90% of their power supply.

    d) Improved navigation: Stabilized annual flows

    e) Improved domestic water availability - In 1990, over a billion people had access to less than the minimum required of 50 litres per person per day.

    f) Recreation: Fishing, boating, tourist spots etc

    g) Ecological: Increased riparian vegetation if dam discharges are steady (riparian refers to riverside)

    Most of these obviously have human interests in mind. For the longest time, we have been only aware of this one aspect of all developmental activity, with the result that the negative consequences of human selfishness are now coming back to haunt us in the form of a depleted ozone layer, global warming, loss of rainforests etc.

    Now, let us look at some of the cons:

    a) Ecological disruption - Fragmentation of 60% of the worlds rivers;

    b) Disruption of movement of species (e.g., destruction of up to 75% of riparian bird species on the Colorado)

    c) Destruction of riparian vegetation if discharges are irregular, e.g., peak-power of flood control types of operations; loss of beaches and marshes

    d) Seepage and evaporation - 15% for Nile system causing major Groundwater table effects

    e) Sedimentation behind dams - sediment is deposited behind the dams, and so erosion is increased downstream by sediment-starved waters

    g) Flucuation vs. steady releases - Flucuations strand fish, reduce habitat for larval native fishes; deny access to tributaries;

    h) Clogging of rivers by side-canyon floods - Peak floods required to clear channel may be eliminated

    i) Dams induce seismic activity in previously aseismic zones

    Not to mention the disasters that loom large should a dam break, the relocation of villages and towns to make way for dams, destruction of historic and ecological sites, water disputes (our famous TN - Karnataka style)....

    Well, looks like the argument against dams wins!!!

    While dams do seem to offer immediate benefits, the cost in the long run is high! There have been considerable benefits from dams, but they have demanded and continue to exact a very high price for those benefits.
    When we stop labouring under the delusion of our cosmic self-importance, we are free of hindrance, fear, worry and attachment. We are liberated!!!

  6. #5
    Senior Member Veteran Hubber jaiganes's Avatar
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    Badri thanks for an interesting post.
    The first link i had provided was from the thamizh site, thinnai .com, where our pavalamani madam's poems also have been published. In the article, Mr. N.Thillai Govindhan, details how all major dams in Thamizh nadu have ended up as huge failures.
    1.How the dams have indirectly been the reason for sand smuggling mafia to multiply along the river beds.
    2. How the sand and debris flow which enriched the farmlands downstrean are no longer available
    3. How dams became tools of political propaganda and were built where there was no need and to a specification that caused other needless issues.
    4. Examples of such useless dams which went on to destroy th eriver ecosystem and effectively contributed to lowering of groundwater level throughout.

    for a full translation, it would require a day and I need to get the permission from Thinnai .com.
    The questions raised are heartfelt and need urgent attention from union and state governments concerned.
    Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    - Gore Vidal

  7. #6
    Moderator Veteran Hubber Badri's Avatar
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    Your poll is very black and white, JG...what about a third grey option pa??
    When we stop labouring under the delusion of our cosmic self-importance, we are free of hindrance, fear, worry and attachment. We are liberated!!!

  8. #7
    Senior Member Veteran Hubber jaiganes's Avatar
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    poll was an afterthought badri!
    I simply wanted this topic to be discussed and that is more important in my opinion. what do u say? if u want a third option, i dont know how to add it? any tips?
    Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    - Gore Vidal

  9. #8
    Moderator Veteran Hubber Badri's Avatar
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    Valid topic, although it doesnt seem to support much by way of a debate. The facts against the dam appear damning!
    When we stop labouring under the delusion of our cosmic self-importance, we are free of hindrance, fear, worry and attachment. We are liberated!!!

  10. #9
    Senior Member Veteran Hubber jaiganes's Avatar
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    badri wrote:
    The facts against the dam appear damning!
    Not that easy!
    I saw in Ahmedabad how the canals build from dam projects over Narmada and Tapti have irrigated previously arid regions of Gujarat. People of the region are of course happy. The question arises more so in the case of building a huge dam like Sardar sarovar project. small dams and check dams have been proven to be useful in the long run too. Classic examples are the bunds and check dams that Anna Hazare helped build in Maharashtra. They have helped in a huge way in water conservation. A big dam like the stanley reservoir over Kaveri in Mettur or K.R.sagar over Kaveri in Karnataka are hardly useful. The whole idea of building huge dams was a backward looking vision of Nehru, who thought our farmers were not scientific enough while the soviet government and farmers were some kind of whizkids of science. As a result he ordered mass dam mania in India, which took water management from being a task of local farmers to a centralised, government controlled process. Now 50 years after, we are realising how ingenious were our farmers in creating check dams and small bunds, which helped these village face vagaries of rain for centuries. Now the government feels helpless as the farmers of modern India have grown used to free water, free power and free development and have started opposing any move to reform water and power sectors. Added to this each and every village is fighting its neighbour over water and not to mention the fight between states that seems to be never ending. So smaller dams should be constructed in every village (reconstruction is the word as our ancestors already have built it and we have simply ignored to use them) and the huge dams should be dismantled.
    Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    - Gore Vidal

  11. #10
    Moderator Veteran Hubber Badri's Avatar
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    There are dams, and then there are dams, JG.

    Check dams and anaicuts are common enough phenomenon that have been found dating back to several centuries. They represent sustainable living. It is the Mega Dams that are of concern.

    Let us face the facts - too much tinkering of the environment has now been found to have severe ecological consequences. Living with nature has now been recognized as the best alternative. Sustainable agriculture and living are gaining greater ground, and in this, we revert back to the practices of our ancient forefathers of all countries in that they were aligned with Nature and the environment, and their living did not cause any large scale manipulation of Nature.

    Mega dams, however, are a classic example of such large scale manipulations.

    And I wouldn't apportion all the blame to Nehru! Dam building was a rage at one point of time. It represented the height of development in terms of infrastructre and technology, much as nuclear armament came to be known in later years. While we have realized the danger and futility of the latter much sooner, we are yet to realize the danger posed by the former. Countries like the US too have not been spared this dam mania, as you put it, and are today seriously revaluating the need for more dams and even existing dams.

    Can't hardly blame Nehru for it all, although I do remember studying about the Bhakra Nangal Dam and how it was the brainchild of Nehru and shows his vision etc!!!
    When we stop labouring under the delusion of our cosmic self-importance, we are free of hindrance, fear, worry and attachment. We are liberated!!!

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