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Damning Damming Modernity: The Destructive Role of M egadams. Patrick D. Murphy Department of English University of Central F lorida.

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damning damming modernity the destructive role of m egadams

Damning Damming Modernity: The DestructiveRole of Megadams

Patrick D. Murphy

Department of English

University of Central Florida


Water is required for everything from the life of the human body to the irrigation of crops, to the half a million gallons of water per minute that must flow to cool nuclear power plants. Only 2.5% fresh water most of that locked up in icecaps and glaciersOnly 1% of the earth's water is available for human use.


Massive plans are underway in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan to build several hundred dams in the region, with over 150,000 Megawatts (MW) of additional capacity proposed in the next 20 years in the four countries. If all the planned capacity expansion materialises, the Himalayan region could possibly have the highest concentration of dams in the world.

-- Mountains of Concrete: Dam Building in the Himalayas, International Rivers, 2008

climate change impact on himalayan rivers
Climate Change Impact on Himalayan Rivers

The impact of global warming is already being felt much more in the Himalayas than in other parts of the world. This is resulting in the accelerated melting of glaciers and the depletion of the massive water store of the region. . . . .

The impact of climate change will be aggravated by the construction of hundreds of dams.

As glaciers melt, water in the rivers will rise, and dams will be subjected to much higher flows, raising concerns of dam safety, increased flooding and submergence.

With the subsequent depletion of glaciers there will be much lower annual flows, affecting the performance of such huge investments.

Climate change will also increase the threats of

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) and possible cascading failures of downstream dams – Mountains of Concrete

hoover dam failing to fulfill promise
Hoover Dam Failing to Fulfill Promise

The demand for water from the Colorado River Basin has now far outstripped supply, and the problem's only getting worse as temperatures rise and the water table is shrinking. Thanks to a decade-long drought, the Lake Mead reservoir in Nevada is about 120 feet below its high-water mark (and if it dips another 42 feet, the dam will have to shut off and will no longer be able to provide hydroelectric power for the region). … When the Hoover Dam was originally proposed in 1922, governors from the seven states in the Colorado Basin were told that the new reservoir would provide enough water to meet all their needs and allow growth without end.-- Bradford Plummer, July 9, 2010

arundhati roy
  • The Greater Common Good
  • Power Politics
dams in kashmir
Dams in Kashmir

Indian Dams

on Right

Baglihar Dam on Chenab River

New Chinese Dams on the northern Mekong, including the world’s tallest dam under construction, the Xiaowan.
senge ali dam
Senge-Ali Dam

Keeping the users of Indus River water uninformed, China has built a dam at catchment area of the river in Tibet at Senge-Ali.Alice Albinia, “All the water that drains from these mountains, I remember, is currently being stopped by the new dam at Senge-Ali,” she wrote.



Discrete Incident Mentality


80,000 dams of varying sizes in the United States

85% of them are fifty years old or older.

One-third of these are estimated to be at high risk of failure

tarbela dam pakistan
Tarbela Dam, Pakistan

Completed in 1976, Tarbela Dam was assumed to have a lifespan until 2030. However, given that over 6 billion tons of sediment (sand, silt and mud) have already accumulated in the first twenty-five years, it is very possible that Tarbela Dam may become ineffective over a shorter than predicted period of time.