Archive for the 'dams' Category

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Should California use taxpayer dollars to build more dams?

Photo retrieved from: www.sacbee.com

“As California struggles through a third year of drought, elected officials from both parties are proposing to spend billions of dollars in public money on new dams and reservoirs. Seven different bills are pending in the Legislature that would use varying amounts of state bond funding to launch a new era of dam construction with the aim of increasing the state’s capacity to store precious mountain snowmelt.

The surge of proposals has stoked familiar arguments in California’s historic battles over limited water supplies: Water users in many cities and throughout the state’s arid central farm belt say new reservoirs are vital to capture snowmelt that would otherwise flow “wasted” to the sea. Environmental groups counter that habitat and wildlife need that water, and call for more sweeping conservation measures and water recycling instead.

But this year, as California faces long-term supply shortages, some water policy experts are raising deeper questions: Is there enough water left in California to justify the cost of dams? If taxpayers do front some money, what are they really buying? Are they propping up a project with shaky economics, or buying something with real public value?

The bills before the Legislature aim to place a bond measure on the November ballot. All propose significant taxpayer subsidies for new reservoirs, ranging from $1 billion to $6 billion. The money would be paid back over decades by taxpayers at large via the state general fund. Additional money for each project is expected to come from the water users who benefit.”

 

 

China Rivers at the Brink of Collapse

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“China’s rulers have traditionally derived their legitimacy from controlling water. The country ranks only sixth in terms of annual river runoff, but counts half the planet’s large dams within its borders. A new report warns that dam building has brought China’s river ecosystems to the point of collapse.

Since the 1950s, China has dammed, straightened, diverted and polluted its rivers in a rapid quest for industrialization. Many of these projects had disastrous environmental, social and economic impacts. The Sanmenxia Dam on the Yellow River for example flooded 660 square kilometers of fertile land and displaced 410,000 people. Yet because it silted up rapidly, the project only generates power at one sixth of its projected capacity.

In the new millennium, the Chinese government realized that its ruthless dam building program threatened to undermine the country’s long-term prosperity and stability. In 2004, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao suspended dam construction on the Nu (Salween) and the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) rivers, including a project on the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. The government created fisheries reserves and strengthened environmental guidelines. In 2011, it even acknowledged the “urgent environmental problems” of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world’s largest hydropower project.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

Beware large dams and their handlers — study

Photo retrieved from: www.bdlive.co.za

“MEGAPROJECTS should be approached with caution, as few managers anywhere in the world are able to forecast their costs and deadlines correctly, new research on megadams between 1934 and 2007 shows.

This applies particularly in the energy field and in Africa, making South Africa’s support for the largest hydropower scheme in the world, the $100bn Grand Inga project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, quite risky.

Large dams usually overshoot their budgets by an average of 96%, which is more than any other asset class, including rail, roads and tunnels, Atif Ansar, Oxford University lecturer and associate fellow at its Saïd Business School tells Business Day.

Dr Ansar has co-authored a report published this month in Energy Policy journal, titled Should We Build More Large Dams? The Actual Cost of Hydropower Megaproject Development. “One ill-conceived dam in a developing country has the potential to cause a sovereign debt crisis,” he says.

Pakistan’s Tarbela dam, built in the 1970s, resulted in a 23% increase in Pakistan’s external public debt stock between 1968 and 1984. Pakistan is still paying, decades later, says Dr Ansar.

Costs of dams are often too high to deliver risk-adjusted returns even in developed countries, his research has found.

Three out of every four large dams surveyed suffered cost overruns. They also took an average of 8.6 years to build, often making them ill-advised, and even dangerous.

African nations are particularly vulnerable. Costs are likely to spiral in countries with low per-capita incomes, unstable currencies and high inflation rates. Without strong economic fundamentals, as well as high-level expertise to manage complex projects, developing countries are at risk of damaging their economies by constructing large dams, Dr Ansar says.

Brazil’s $14.4bn megadam, the Belo Monte hydroelectric project, is a classic example.”

Read more: BDlive

 

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga


Photo retrieved from: The Atlantic

“Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.

“I’ve come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $25 billion plan to fix California’s troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between northern and southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range’s snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast—Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose—would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.”

Ream more: The Atlantic

 

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river’s terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages.

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information.

Fast Facts

  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana.
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked.”

Read more: International Rivers


 

Egypt’s Generals Face a Watery Battle

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Heavy reliance on water intensive crops, a major upstream dam project for the Nile basin, and rising groundwater levels pushing at pharaoh-era monuments will be pressing issues for the next Egyptian president – whether military or civilian.

As criticism continues over the military’s heavy-handedness to quell protests, little attention is being given to the late January announcement by Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources on the growing severity of the country’s water shortage: share of water per citizen stands at 640 cubic metres, compared with an international standard of 1,000.

The minister said he expected this amount to decrease to 370 cubic metres by 2050 due to a rapidly growing population.

A scientist working in the water resources sector expressed cautious hope to IPS that “the military is one of the few institutions that can actually get things done.” But he added: “That said, they were in power for a long time and didn’t do anything.”

Improving irrigation practices and countering the demographic explosion are some of the most commonly cited actions to be considered, as well as reducing the use of pesticides and improving sewage and waste disposal systems to prevent contaminating the limited water supplies available.”

Read more: IPS

 

World Bank Indefinitely Postpones Inga 3 Project

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“The World Bank has just made a surprise decision to indefinitely postpone the board discussion of its support for the huge Inga 3 Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Bank’s board of directors was scheduled to vote on February 11 on a US$73 million grant to prepare for the project. Opposition from local and international NGOs has been mounting, and civil society groups are now urging the Bank to fundamentally reconsider the Inga 3 project.

As proposed, the Inga 3 Dam would generate power for mining companies and the South African market, not for the more than 90% of the DRC population that has no access to electricity. In a letter to the World Bank, a coalition of 12 Congolese NGOs asks that the needs of the local population be prioritized in a comprehensive assessment of the country’s energy needs and options. If the Inga 3 Dam were to go ahead, they state, at least 50% of the power generated by the dam should serve the energy needs of the population.

Danny Singoma, Executive Director of the Congolese NGO CENADEP, comments: “The project assumes that the revenues from the power exports will benefit local people. These kinds of development have never worked in our country, where there is so much corruption and no accountability to the citizens by those in power.”

The DRC has a large potential of clean local energy sources such as solar and micro-hydropower. Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Program Director for International Rivers, comments: “Decentralized energy is the only feasible way of meeting the energy needs of the majority in such a vast country with limited capacity for maintaining huge infrastructure.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

Glacier Hazards and Risk Mitigation

“Pakistan is located at the junction of the world’s three largest mountain ranges— Karakorum, Himalayas and Hindu Kush. The region has a total coverage area of 3500 sq.km and Pakistan hosts 8 out of 14 highest peaks of the world. A large part of the area remains covered by piles of snow round the year. Scientists and climate advocators call the region the Third Pole outside of the polar region.

An inventory study conducted by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development(ICIMOD) in the five Hindu Kush-Himalayan(HKH) countries of Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, has identified a total of 15,003 glaciers, covering an area of about 33,344 sq.km, and 8,790 glacial lakes, of which 203 have been identified as potentially dangerous

 

Baltoro Glacier, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, retrieved from DeviantArt

In 2005 water Resource Research Institute (WRSI) of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with ICIMOD prepared a glacial inventory, identifying 5218 glaciers with an average coverage area of 15041 sq.km. The study has recorded 2420 glacial lakes of which 52 were identified as potentially dangerous.

Outburst floods of such glacial lakes pose great threat to the downstream low lying areas. The northern and north western parts of Pakistan, mostly Chitral in KPK district and Gilgit Baltistan are hosting these larger glaciers. As climate change intensifies, risk and frequency of Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods (GLOF) is expected to increase in future. Many other research papers have also indicated that the glaciers in Karakorum and Himalayas which also have a regional sharing with central Asian region is susceptible to climate change, and these glacier are going through rapid changes.”

Read more: Dardistan Times

U.S. pushes for outside oversight of World Bank, opposes push toward ‘big hydro’

Photo retrieved from: www.washingtonpost.com

“The United States is demanding stricter oversight of World Bank projects amid concern that the bank has slipped in how closely it guards against violence, forced resettlement and other conflict associated with the works that it funds.

In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States recently approved an appropriations bill that orders the bank’s U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies through­out the bank’s history. The measure also demands that the organization undertake “independent outside evaluations” of all of its lending.

The demand coincides with a spate of disputes between the World Bank, civil society groups and the United States over past bank-funded projects that have been linked to killings of villagers and forcing people from their land. The cases include still-unpaid reparations from a Guatemala dam project from the 1970s in which hundreds of villagers were killed, concern about forced relocations in Ethiopia, and funding for a palm oil and food company whose operations in Honduras in recent years were the scenes of deadly fighting between workers and security guards.”

Read more: The Washington Post

 

Development Follows Devastation from Brazilian Dam

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Valdenor de Melo has been waiting for 27 years for the land and cash compensation he is due because his old farm was left underwater when the Itaparica hydroelectric dam was built on the São Francisco river in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast.

“I’ll get them, I’m confident,” he told IPS, although he is worried it will be after he retires as a farmer. But the 60-year-old at least has a solid brick house, where he lives with part of his family in a purpose-built farming village where all of the homes look alike.

The Melo family is one of the 10,500 families displaced in 1988, according to official data, by the reservoir of the Itaparica dam, which generates 1,480 MW of electricity.

But the real number of people forced off their land by the dam is nearly double that – close to 80,000 people, Russell Parry Scott, an anthropologist from the U.S., wrote in his book “Negociações e resistências persistentes”, published in Portuguese. The book is based on studies carried out at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Northeast Brazil, where he is a professor.

Melo’s undying hope is based on the process that began with the construction of the dam and the 828-sq-km reservoir, which submerged four towns as well as riverbank fields along a 150-km stretch of the border between the states of Bahía and Pernambuco.

Unlike other hydropower plants in Brazil, the Itaparica dam triggered a successful, organised movement by the rural families who were displaced.”

Read more: IPS News