Tag Archives: Dams

China’s Great Dam Boom: A Major Assault

Tibetan prayer flags in front of Meili Snow Mountains.
China’s construction of dams on the Lancang (or Upper Mekong) threatens a complex ecosystem downstream that supports over 60 million people in Southeast Asia. Five megadams have already been built, eight are underway, and several more are being planned upstream in Tibet and Qinghai. Guonian Dam, however, was cancelled in early 2012 because, according to the dam developer Hydrolancang, its reservoir would have accelerated glacier melt on the sacred Kawagebo mountain (part of the Meili Snow Mountains). In October 2012, International Rivers went to investigate the current status of dam building on the Lancang River to verify this news. Captions and Photo Source: ©© International Rivers


China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia…

Read Full Article Article,Yale E 360

Himalayas to Become The Most Dammed Region In The World, IPS News

Small Dams On Chinese River Harm Environment More Than Expected, study finds, NSF

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science Daily

Coastal Erosion Induced by Human Activities: A Northwest Bohai Sea Case Study, Journal of Coastal Research
Using mooring hydrodynamic observation, cross-shore profiles, and topographic-map and satellite-image comparisons, this study shows dramatic coastal erosion on the Qinhuangdao coast (northeast Bohai Sea, China). Sediment starvation induced by dams mainly caused this fast coastal retreat.

China’s Dams, International Rivers
Dammed, diverted and polluted, China’s rivers are reaching an ecological tipping point. China has more large dams than any other country in the world, including the world’s largest – the Three Gorges Dam.

Himalayas to Become The Most Dammed Region In The World

According to a joint press release issued by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, the great majority of the world’s glaciers appear to be declining at rates equal to or greater than long-established trends. This image from the ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite shows the termini of the glaciers in the Bhutan-Himalaya. Glacial lakes have been rapidly forming on the surface of the debris-covered glaciers in this region during the last few decades. According to Jeffrey Kargel, a USGS scientist, glaciers in the Himalaya are wasting at alarming and accelerating rates, as indicated by comparisons of satellite and historic data, and as shown by the widespread, rapid growth of lakes on the glacier surfaces. Captions and Photo source: NASA


Most of the Himalayan rivers have been relatively untouched by dams near their sources. Now the two great Asian powers, India and China, are rushing to harness them.

The result, over the next 20 years, “could be that the Himalayas become the most dammed region in the world”…

Read Full Article: “China and India Water Grab Dams Put Ecology Of Himalayas in Danger” Guardian UK

Mountains of Concrete: Dam Building in the Himalayas, International Rivers
There will always be abundant snow and glaciers on the highest mountains of the world, the Himalayas. This snow will always feed the Indus and Ganges rivers and forever supply water to millions of people in South Asia and China. These statements may no longer be true. Our warming climate is changing the Himalayas faster than any other region of the world. The mountains’ mighty glaciers, the source of most large Asian rivers, are melting. Against these dramatic changes, the governments of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan are planning to transform the Himalayan rivers into the powerhouse of South Asia. They want to build hundreds of mega-dams to generate electricity from the wild waters of the Himalayas…

Are Humans Responsible for the Himalayan Tsunami? IPS News

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The dried up Yunam river at Sarchu. Captions and Photo source: ©© Jace

Sediment Trapped Behind Dams Makes Them ‘Hot Spots’ for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Dire Consequences of Dam Reservoir Emissions, Petit Saut Reservoir, French Guiana. A growing number of scientific studies indicate that reservoirs, especially in the tropics, are a significant source of global greenhouse gas pollution. The “fuel” for these emissions is the rotting of organic matter from the vegetation and soils flooded when the reservoir is first filled. The carbon in the plankton and plants that live and die in the reservoir, the detritus washed down from the watershed above, and the seasonal flooding of plants along the reservoir fringes, ensure that emissions continue for the lifetime of the reservoir. Captions and Photo source: ©© Frédéric Guérin / International Rivers


With the “green” reputation of large hydroelectric dams already in question, scientists are reporting that millions of smaller dams on rivers around the world make an important contribution to the greenhouse gases linked to global climate change. Their study, showing that more methane than previously believed bubbles out of the water behind small dams, appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology

Andreas Maeck and colleagues point out that the large reservoirs of water behind the world’s 50,000 large dams are a known source of methane. Like carbon dioxide, methane is one of the greenhouse gases, which trap heat near Earth’s surface and contribute to global warming. Methane, however, has a warming effect 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The methane comes from organic matter in the sediments that accumulate behind dams. That knowledge led to questions about hydroelectric power’s image as a green and nonpolluting energy source. Maeck’s team decided to take a look at methane releases from the water impoundments behind smaller dams that store water less than 50 feet deep…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

New Global Warming Culprit: Dams, Science Daily (Uploaded 08-08-2012)
Washington State University researchers have documented an underappreciated suite of players in global warming: dams, the water reservoirs behind them, and surges of greenhouse gases as water levels go up and down.

Small Dams On Chinese River Harm Environment More Than Expected, study finds, NSF
A fresh look at the environmental impacts of dams on an ecologically diverse and partially protected river in China found that small dams can pose a greater threat to ecosystems and natural landscapes than large dams.

Tucuruí Dam spillway, Tocantins River, Brazil (Eneida Castro). Brazilian researchers estimated in 2007 that methane from dams is responsible for around 4% of human-caused global warming. Greenhouse gases, primarily methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted from the surface of the reservoir, at turbines and spillways, and for tens of kilometers downstream. Emissions are highest in hot climates. Captions and Photo source: ©© International Rivers

Removal of Veazie Dam Begins on Maine’s Penobscot River

Veazie Dam removal. Photo source: Meagan Racey / USFWS


Today is a big day for dam removal and river restoration. Removal of the Veazie Dam begins on Maine’s Penobscot River, one of the most significant river restoration projects in our country, and a wonderful example of collaboration and “win-win” solutions for the environment and economy.

Because of the threats from existing or proposed dams, American Rivers named the Penobscot one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers every year from 1989 to 1996. After more than a decade of work by American Rivers, the Penobscot Restoration Trust, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and others, the river restoration project kicked off last summer with the removal of Great Works Dam…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

Breaching of dam, restoring salmon’s passage unite many, Boston Globe

Pakistan’s Coast And Encroaching Seas


The Indus River Delta forms where the Indus River flows into the Arabian Sea in Pakistan.
The delta covers an area of about 41,440 km² (16,000 square miles), and is approximately 210 km across where it meets the sea, and is a large mangrove ecoregion on the Arabian Sea coast. However, since the 1940s, the delta has received less water as a result of large scale irrigation works capturing large amounts of the Indus water before it reaches the delta. Pollution from the industrial city and port of Karachi is a threat to habitats in the delta, as is depletion of the Indus as water is extracted. Most of the Indus delta mangroves have been cleared for firewood and to create grazing land.The result has been catastrophic for both the environment and the local population. Captions: Wikipedia. Photo source: NASA


On a theoretical level, climate change and sea intrusion are not things Din Muhammad Chandio, a fisherman and farmer, understands much about.

But practically-speaking Chandio has seen them push him deeper into poverty in the town of Keti Bunder in Thatta District on the coast of Pakistan’s Sindh Province.

“I earned a living mainly through fishing, and some farming. Now both are impossible because our lands have become barren due to seawater flowing in. The lack of fresh water flowing down the [Indus] river also means fishing is affected.”

These trends are being studied by the World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P) which is in the middle of a five-year project to build climate change resistance on Pakistan’s coastline, where communities are vulnerable to cyclones, rising sea levels and storm surges.

According to their baseline study, published last year, encroaching seas are leaving farmland increasingly saline and water-logged, and leading to a decline in fresh water fish stocks.

In one of the villages studied, Kharo Chan, the report’s authors found 45 percent of income declines were a result of the environmental degradation of fisheries, and 65 percent due to the environmental degradation of agricultural land.

The River Indus, which is Pakistan’s longest and runs the length of the country, has seen its flow reduced in recent years by the creation of hydroelectric dams upstream, retreating Himalayan glaciers and poor water management.

In Keti Bunder 77 percent of household heads surveyed in the study depend exclusively on fishing for their livelihood, making them vulnerable to changes in catch sizes.

Chandio said his monthly income had dropped by a third to around US$120 in the past three years, and feeding his family of eight has become increasingly difficult. Seeing the way things were going, his two adult sons recently left to try and find work in Karachi.

“Because of sea erosion, people in areas such as Badin District, Thatta District and so on, have lost homes because the sea has literally taken them away,” Ayub Khaskheli, information secretary of Karachi-based NGO Pakistan Fisher-folks Forum, told IRIN.

” Tahir Qureshi, senior adviser (coastal) for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Karachi, blamed the construction of dams and barrages on the Indus for the sea’s intrusion into the Indus Delta. ”

He said that due to the loss of their homes, people were desperate and had in some cases been forced to move further inland or leave coastal areas altogether.

“Crops such as potatoes and vegetables grown by women and used to feed families cannot be cultivated any longer. They simply do not grow in the now barren soil.”

Khaskheli said the fact that seawater had entered drinking water supplies obtained through wells and hand pumps had “also caused many problems for people in these communities”.


Environmental journalist Afia Salam told IRIN climate variability had created a “striking despondency among people”.

“The town of Keti Bunder has been relocated three times, having to move inwards because of the encroachment of the sea. The able-bodied young men have left looking for livelihoods elsewhere as agriculture is no more, and marine catch has been severely reduced.”

This sense of despondency exists too in other areas of Thatta, such as Kharo Chan, a `taluka’ (administrative unit) where Shamshad Bibi, the mother of four young children, lives in her village.

“The 10 acres or so of land we had is mainly destroyed. Nothing grows on it because of the salt water. Now we just keep a small herd of goats and my husband tries to fish when he can. There is no future here for my children,” she told IRIN.

Tahir Qureshi, senior adviser (coastal) for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Karachi, blamed the construction of dams and barrages on the Indus for the sea’s intrusion into the Indus Delta.

“So far no scientific work has been done by the academia or national research institutions on sea level rise in order to investigate its contribution to this ecological disaster along the coast of Sindh. Mangroves are the soil binder and are the first defence line against all natural disasters,” he said.

The IUCN has, with other groups, promoted mangrove cultivation to hold back erosion. Mangrove cover along the 350km Sindh coastline is 200,000 hectares, sharply down, according to environmentalists.

“Loss of land will destroy us”

WWF-P says it is working to build both disaster preparedness in coastal communities and help farming and fishing to adapt.

“Communities react through coping measures, e.g. moving inland, or through reactive adaption when they respond to a new situation as it arises. We are trying to promote planned adaption to the change,” said WWF-P’s Bajwa. Modes of adaptation being considered for promotion include changing planting periods and the types of crops farmers grow.

Certainly, people living in coastal areas are desperate to see change come their way.

“The continued loss of land will destroy us. The barley my father and grandfather planted simply does not grow here any longer,” said Hussain Ahmed from his village in Thatta.

“Even fodder for livestock is hard to grow, and the shrimp we used to take to markets in huge baskets have shrunk drastically in number.”

He said that, as a direct result, “there is less food to place on the family table, less money to educate my children and nothing at all for health care. The sea, which once helped us by providing fish, has turned against us and is taking over our lands.”

Original Article, “Pakistan’s coast – where the sea is an enemy not a friend,”IRIN

Miracle at Keti Bunder, Pakistan, by Khan, Rina Saeed (2009-07-10)
The villagers were fast asleep when the sea-water suddenly rose up and a high tide silently flooded their homes. These people are amongst the poorest of the poor in Pakistan, living in wooden shacks on the mud flats of the fan-shaped Indus Delta. They are completely dependent upon fishing for their survival, and this is where the Indus River meets the Arabian Sea. “It was sudden and completely unexpected. No doubt it was because of the global climate change and the lack of fresh water in the delta,” explained Zahid Jalbani, who is the Site Manager for the Indus for All Programme, and is currently mobilizing the local community to take charge of their natural resources…

Are Humans Responsible for the Himalayan Tsunami?

The confluence of the Alaknanda (stormy, grey) and Bhagirathi (placid, brown) at Devaprayag, forms the Ganga as it heads for the final lap down the mountain before entering the plains. Captions and Photo source: ©© Vm2827


On Jun. 15, flash floods caused by a cloudburst and glacial leaks swept thousands of unsuspecting pilgrims away in what scientists are now referring to as a ‘Himalayan tsunami’.

For years, a booming tourist industry, made possible by thousands of illegally constructed guesthouses, has spawned massive hydroelectric power projects on the rivers, while other infrastructure development designed to accommodate hoards of visitors has proceeded at a steady clip, putting undue stress on this fragile ecological zone.

Scientists also say the damming of the Ganga, riverbed encroachment and mining activities are wreaking havoc on the region.

According to Mallika Bhanot, member of Ganga Ahvaan, a public forum to save the holy river, about 244 dams are being constructed along the water channel, while only three were cancelled after a 100-km stretch, from the glacial mouth of Gomukh to Uttarkashi town, was declared an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in December 2012.

The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has also traced the link between the disaster and the manner in which development has been carried out in this unique region…

Read Full Article, IPS News

1,000 people remain missing almost two weeks after devastating floods struck India’s Himalayan region, Reuters
Dubbed a “Himalayan Tsunami” by the Indian media due to the torrents of water that gushed through Uttarakhand, the floods and landslides swept away buildings and bridges and buried roads.

Hydro Electric Projects on the Alaknanda River Basin, International Rivers

Gathering to march for a free-flowing Alaknanda River, India, March 22nd, 2013. Captions and Photo source: ©© International Rivers

California’s Biggest Dam Removal Project in History Begins in Carmel Valley

San Clemente Dam on California’s Carmel River after rainfall. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


Today marks a historic event for California rivers: the launch of the biggest dam removal project in state history… Over the next 28 months, the beautiful Carmel River will be set free to flow more naturally for 70 percent of its length as the 106-foot (32.3 meter) San Clemente Dam is dismantled…

“This project demonstrates the art of the possible.”

Read Full Article: “Fish, Frogs, and People to Benefit from Biggest Dam-Removal Project in California History”, National Geographic

California’s biggest dam removal project in history begins in Carmel Valley, Mercury News
For nine decades, the 10-story-high concrete dam with its rusted pipes, railings and valves has stood in the wooded canyons between the Big Sur hills and the picturesque town of Carmel, blocking the natural flows of the Carmel River. In a project that will be watched by engineers and biologists across the nation, construction crews today will begin a three-year, $84 million project to tear down the hulking landmark, California’s largest dam-removal project ever.

Largest Dam in State History Torn Down, California, ABC News
Monterey County supervisors gave their OK for the largest dam removal project in state history. The San Clemente Dam is eighteen miles from the coast in the Carmel Valley.

Small Dams On Chinese River Harm Environment More Than Expected, study finds

Jinanqiao Dam on the Jinsha River (Upper Yantze), built in high seismic activity, yet approved in 2012. Dammed, diverted and polluted, China’s rivers are reaching an ecological tipping point. Captions and Photo source: ©© International Rivers


A fresh look at the environmental impacts of dams on an ecologically diverse and partially protected river in China found that small dams can pose a greater threat to ecosystems and natural landscapes than large dams.

Large dams have been considered more harmful than their smaller counterparts.

But researchers’ surveys of habitat loss and damage at several dam sites on the Nu River and its tributaries in Yunnan Province revealed that the environmental effects of small dams are often greater–sometimes by several orders of magnitude–than of large dams.

“Small dams have hidden detrimental effects, particularly when effects accumulate” through multiple dam sites, said Kelly Kibler, a water resources engineer who led the study while at Oregon State University.

“That’s one of the main outcomes, to demonstrate that the perceived absence of negative effects from small hydropower is not always correct.”

She and Desiree Tullos, also a water resources engineer at Oregon State, report their findings in a paper accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

“These researchers have taken advantage of what is essentially a natural experiment that allowed them to compare the effects of hydroelectric dams of different sizes,” said Tom Baerwald of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, which co-funded the research with other NSF directorates. “The results are applicable beyond this region.”

To compare the effects of small and large dams, Kibler investigated 31 small dams built on tributaries to China’s Nu River and four large dams proposed for the main stem of the Nu River.

She assessed the environmental effects of these dams in 14 categories–including the area and quality of habitat lost, the length of river channel affected, the amount of conservation land affected, and the landslide risk.

Because information regarding large dams is restricted under the Chinese State Secrets Act, Kibler modeled the potential effects of the four large dams using publicly-available information from hydropower companies, development agencies, and academic literature.

After evaluating data from the field, hydrologic models, and Environmental Impact Assessment reports on the small dams, Kibler and Tullos concluded that effects of the small dams exceeded those of large dams on nine out of the 14 characteristics they studied.

One particularly detrimental effect of the small dams is that they often divert the flow of the river to hydropower stations, leaving several kilometers of river bed dewatered, Kibler said.

From its headwaters in the Tibetan Plateau, the Nu River flows through China, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand.

“While the number of small hydropower dams in operation or planned for tributaries to the Nu River is unreported,” the authors state in their paper, “our field surveys indicate that nearly one hundred small dams currently exist within Nujiang Prefecture alone.”

Thirteen large hydropower dams are proposed for the mainstem of the Nu River in Tibet and Yunnan Province in China.

Environmental, social, and economic factors make the Nu River basin extremely sensitive to hydropower installations.

In addition to supporting several protected species, the region is home to a large proportion of ethnic minorities and valuable natural resources, the authors report.

While large hydropower projects are managed by the central government, and both large and small hydropower projects undergo environmental impact assessments, decisions about small hydropower projects are made at a provincial or other regional level and often receive less oversight, Kibler and Tullos state.

The lack of regulation paired with a dearth of communication between small dam projects in China allows for the effects to multiply and accumulate through several dam sites, the authors write.

To mitigate the detrimental effects of small dams, there’s a need for comprehensive planning for low-impact energy development, said Kibler and Tullos.

“The lack of analyses of the cumulative effects of small hydropower,” Kibler said, “is a significant research gap with important policy implications.”

Original Article, NSF

Dams In China, by International Rivers
Dammed, diverted and polluted, China’s rivers are reaching an ecological tipping point. China has more large dams than any other country in the world, including the world’s largest – the Three Gorges Dam. Chinese companies are rapidly exporting their large dam-building model overseas. Chinese banks and companies are involved in constructing some 300 dams in 66 different countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Largest Dam in State History Torn Down, California

San Clemente Dam on California’s Carmel River after rainfall. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


Monterey County supervisors gave their OK for the largest dam removal project in state history. The San Clemente Dam is eighteen miles from the coast in the Carmel Valley…

Read Full Article, ABC News

San Clemente Dam removal project to start by August, Monterey Herald
The long-awaited San Clemente Dam removal project is scheduled to begin this summer after California American Water earned the final go-ahead…

NOAA and California Officials Agree to Remove Large Concrete Dam to Eliminate Safety Hazard and Restore Steelhead Habitat, NOAA
NOAA joined state and local officials in a pledge to remove the San Clemente Dam to eliminate a threat to the lives and property of those along California’s lower Carmel River, and help restore the watershed for federally protected steelhead trout.
The 89-year old, 106-foot high dam, which once helped bring water to residents of Monterey County, is at risk of failing during a significant earthquake or flood. Sediment has been building up behind the dam for years, making it a hazard for those living below it and almost useless as a water storage reservoir. If the dam were to fail, an estimated 2½ million cubic yards of sediment and more than 40 million gallons of water could rush downstream with potentially disastrous consequences. The dam removal will also aid in the recovery of steelhead trout by opening up access to more than 25 square miles of spawning and rearing habitat. Steelhead in Carmel River were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997…

San Clemente Dam Removal & Carmel River Reroute Project

On The Elwha, A New Life When The Dam Breaks, Washington State (Uploaded 09-18-2011)
Nobody figured the largest dam removal project ever attempted in the U.S. was going to be easy, or fast. The nation’s largest and most ambitious dam removal will begin this month, when workers start demolishing two antique dams on Washington state’s Elwha River…

Tracking Sediments’ Fate In Largest-Ever Dam Removal (Uploaded 03-08-2013)
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris that built up for more than a century…