Rivers are not just large magnificent bodies of water but are also the veins of the earth. Dams are like blood clots, they block the natural flow of the river, they block a steady flow of cash that depends on the river, they destroy the environment and disturb people’s livelihood. If a dam is like a blood clot for our planet then why are we so keen to create them? Because they are “Green” which means they have less carbon emissions than traditional energy sources. Hydroelectricity might be the most renewable and green source of energy in the world but the environmental and social impact that is created means alternative energy sources are necessary. There are three main issues with hydropower dams, firstly dams have a huge environmental impact to the surrounding area. Second, the social impact on people living in the area which the dam affects. Thirdly, the recreational impacts which affect all river users.
The social or cultural impact that dams have is just one of the reasons we need to find alternative energy sources. How would you feel if you were told that your family, your house, your community, everything you know had no choice but to move? How would you feel if you found out that your local landscape would be gone in a matter of years, flooded by an enormous reservoir that a new hydro-dam would create? This was a reality for more than 1.24 million people in Yiling district in China when the Three Gorges Dam was constructed in 2003. 13 cities 140 towns and 1350 small villages were forced to shift due to a reservoir with a surface area 40 times larger than the Wanaka area. It is estimated that 40-80 million people have been displaced worldwide by dams ever. What I still struggle to understand is how any company or government could justify the creation of something like a dam. It seems absurd that any one company could dictate such a massive impact on so many people’s lives Another group of people that are affected when a dam is built are the people who live downstream. Imagine that a stream run through both you and your neighbors property and you both relied on the stream for food water, everything. If your neighbor built a dam on their section of the river and stopped your flow, how would you feel? What would you do? What could you do? This exact scenario is happening on a large scale right now. On the Mekong river in south east asia a small country called Laos are building dams, blocking the mekong and stopping the flow that Vietnam’s delta region utterly depends on. In many cases the people who live along the river bank rely on the river to cook, clean, farm and drink; When a dam is built both the consistent flow and regular floods are stopped which affects all regions downstream. The Delta region of the Mekong river in Vietnam is now lacking vital nutrient-rich sediment which is brought during the flood each year. This is because of the dams that have been built upstream by another country. The Mekong Delta is one of the most productive and densely populated areas of Vietnam, home to 18 million people it produces 50% of the country’s staple food crops and 90% of the rice exports. Scientists have warned that 27% of Vietnam’s GDP could be gone in the next twenty years if daming on the Mekong continues. A large portion of the country relies on the delta, taking away such a precious resource will result in Vietnam becoming a significantly poorer country. Damming of rivers affects so many people who depend on them and it needs to stop.
Hydro-power is good for the environment right? Then you would be surprised to hear that one of my main reasons against having dams is their environmental impact. It’s not the carbon emission that threaten the environment but the habitat destruction that incurs when a dam is built. When a dam is built it can disrupt entire ecosystems, wipe out trees and plants and kill the many animals that live in the area affected. Large dams can lead to the extinction of many fish, the disappearance of birds in floodplains, huge losses of forest, wetland and farmland, erosion of coastal deltas, and many other major impacts. The deaths of these animals and plants happen for many reasons but they all lead back to the creation of the dam. Firstly, when a dam is built the reservoir that is created by the dam destroys the habitat for all the creatures living there; It is important to note that it is almost impossible to predict the reservoirs size and depth. The creation of a dam is a destructive force against the ecosystems in its way. A local example of habitat destruction caused by dams is the Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve which lies between Bannockburn and Cromwell. It is the only reserve in the world that was specifically created to protect invertebrates. This reserve was created because of the clyde dam and lake dunstan destroying the beetles habitat. If the beetles were not moved when lake dunstan was filled it would have extincted the chafer beetle. This is a good example of dams destroying wildlife and their habitats.again the end effect of the dam is that a corporation can walk right over anything in its way and let someone or something else deal with the consequences. The damming of rivers and the destruction of animals habitats has to stop before it is to late.
The final group that is affected by the damming of rivers is recreational river users. Everyone from kayakers to fisherman to rafters is affected by a dammed river. A good example is in Uganda on the White Nile. Uganda’s main source of income is tourism and the tourist attraction voted most popular is about to be forced out of business to the damming of the Nile. The White Nile has some of the most spectacular whitewater in the world and is sought after by kayakers and rafters from all over. Rafting on the white nile is one of Uganda’s most famous tourist attractions. Maybe it’s the sheer beauty of the river or perhaps the adrenaline of riding down the wild roller coaster that is the white nile. As soon as august this year many amazing rapids will be flooded by the creation of the Isimba dam. Kayaking and rafting in Uganda is more than a passion, it is a way of life. If you can learn to kayak in Uganda it means a reliable job as a guide however taking away the amazing river will result in financial instability for all who depend on the river. A local example of the same thing is the hawea wave. How is that the same thing? Before the Clyde dam was constructed there used to be large rapids in the Cromwell gap. The Hawea wave which I’m sure you all know of. Was constructed due to a legal battle between kayakers and Contact energy to get compensation for the river that was destroyed by the dam.
Companies seem to be able to walk all over millions of people to build hydro schemes and ruin the rivers for everyone which is why it needs to stop. If something isn’t done soon to stop these damned dams then we will lose some of the most magnificent, powerful and life-bringing pieces of our planet. In conclusion we need to find alternative energy sources and stop locking our rivers, this is because of the environmental, social and recreational impact that i have just talked about.
Say no to dams