ACCORDING to International Rivers, on Aug 16, after nearly 10 years of campaigning, La Parota Dam, in Mexico, was officially cancelled. La Parota would have consisted of a 900 MW dam on the Papagayo River 28km from the city of Acapulco in the state of Guerrero. It would have flooded close to 17,000 hectares of land, displaced more than 25,000 people, and affected another 75,000 people downstream of the dam.
Earlier in July the Belo Monte Dam construction was halted by the Brazilian court, until local indigenous community is properly consulted about possible fallout. Belo Monte Dam will flood an area of 500 square kilometres and force the relocation of 40,000 people.
The Mokihinui River, one of New Zealand’s largest and most pristine wild rivers, will continue to flow freely after Meridian Energy announced its decision not to move forward with the planned Mokihinui Dam.
In Sikkim, a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains, due to the intense pressure by the affected communities, the government of Sikkim has cancelled four dams on Teesta River, due to social and environmental concerns. The four cancelled dams are the 99 MW Bop Dam, 99 MW Bhimkyong Dam, 99 MW Lachung Dam and 280 MW Teesta State-I Dam. So far, 10 dams have been cancelled by the Sikkim government due to protests.
In Thailand, due to forceful efforts by Pianporn Pai Deetes, a female campaigner, the Thai government has shelved the dam project on the Salween River to keep the Mekong free-flowing.
The US has made tremendous progress in the dam removal field. The removal of the Great Works Dam on thePenobscot River, Maine, began in June this year. The Penobscot River once had salmon, shad, sturgeon, alewives, eels and smelt, all of which were almost wiped out by the dam. Next in line is Vaezie Dam, which will be removed in July 2013.
Work on the removal of Elwha Dam and the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in Washington began in September 2011. As of today, the Elwha Dam has been removed and the Glines Canyon has been partly demolished and the river now, in part, is free flowing. Tagged fish are being released into the river to jump-start the re-colonisation of the habitat.
The California Public Utilities Commission has decided to permanently remove the San Clemente Dam from the Carmel River. The decision will enable the largest dam removal project in California history. The 106-foot high water supply dam is more than 90 per cent filled with sediment. Removing the dam will restore access to 25 miles of spawning habitat critical to the South Central California Coast Steelhead’s recovery.
Quite often, alternatives to large dams exit, but either these are not fully assessed, or, the range of alternative options is narrowed by the ardent dam proponents. For example, dams provide water for irrigation. An alternative would to adopt water conservation and make optimum use of water. This can be done by determining the soil moisture by using soil moisture sensors. Sensors will indicate the soil water status, whether it is dry, adequately wet or saturated.
Dams provide electricity. The rational alternative is to have community energy based on solar and wind power. Toilets at Masjid-i-Nabvi, Madinah, have solar panels on their rooftops, which provide electricity for all the toilets there.
Alternatives to dams are available if only saner people listen ‘to the rivers’ impartially.
F.H. MUGHAL Karachi