12 dams that changed the world

By Peter Bosshard
Guardian environment blog, Monday 12 January 2015

12 dams that changed the world


From the iconic Hoover Dam of US to Mao’s Three Gorges Dam in China and India’s Sardar Sarovar, here is a selection of 12 mega dams of the world – but are they a boon or bane?

Hoover Dam, and behind it Lake Mead, which is at its lowest level since it was filled in 1937, is pictured near Boulder City, Nevada, USA, 24 July 2014. Built in the 1930s, Hoover Dam turned the newly-created Lake Mead into the largest reservoir in the United States. Yet a severe drought in the American Southwest has left the lake at just 39 percent capacity, with water levels at 1082 feet (330 meters), down from a high of 1225 feet (373 meters) in 1983.

The Hoover Dam, and behind it Lake Mead, which was at its lowest level since it was filled in 1937, near Boulder City, Nevada, US, on 24 July 2014. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Dams illustrate the brilliance and arrogance of human ingenuity. They generateone-sixth of the world’s electricity and irrigate one-seventh of our food crops. They have flooded land areas the size of California, displaced a population the size of Germany’s, and turned freshwater into the ecosystem most threatened by species extinction. Below are 12 of the 57,000 large dams that have changed the face of our planet:

Hoover: the dam that gave us Las Vegas

The Hoover Dam was the world’s highest and most powerful dam when it was completed in 1936. It spurred the agricultural and industrial development of the US southwest, and destroyed the Colorado river’s rich downstream fisheries. Climate change is greatly affecting the dam’s capacity to supply water and generate power.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered thesymbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished.

A view of the Kariba Dam.
 A view of the Kariba Dam. Photograph: James Burke/Getty Images

Bhakra: the temple of modern India

In the 1960s, the Bhakra Dam became the symbol of India’s green revolution, and was hailed by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as a “Temple of Modern India”. Yet in India and beyond, badly managed irrigation schemes have resulted in waterlogged, saline soils and diminishing harvests. Nehru soon came to deplore the “disease of giganticism” in dam building.

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154mreparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

A picture dated 30 Abril 2004 shows hYdroelectric power station Yacireta dam, in the Parana River between the province of Corrientes of Argentina and the Paraguayan city of Ayolas. The project generated controversy and criticism during its planning and construction and earning it a reputation as a 'monument to corruption'.

Yacyretá Dam, on the Parana river between the province of Corrientes of Argentina and the Paraguayan city of Ayolas. The project generated controversy and criticism during its planning and construction, and is often referred to as a ‘monument to corruption’. Photograph: Leonardo Zavattaro/CorbisYacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Nagymaros: the dam that started people power in eastern Europe

In 1988, 40,000 Hungarians protested against the proposed Nagymaros Dam on the Danube in the first open defiance of a communist government in decades. The following year, the project was stopped and people power took root throughout eastern Europe. Protests against destructive dams also started democratic processes in Burma and other countries.

In an unusual way of protesting, some 51 affected villagers under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)   stand  in chin-deep water demanding land to replace lost land which was submerged after the water level in Omkareshwar dam and Indira Sagar dam was raised, according to reports,  in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India, 4 September 2012.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists – villagers affected principally by Sardar Sarovar Dam and also other dams on the river Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in India – stand in chin-deep water demanding land to replace land which was submerged after the water level in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams was raised. Photograph: Sanjeev Gupta/EPASardar Sarovar: the dam that defeated the World Bank

The Sardar Sarovar Dam on India’s Narmada river has displaced more than 250,000 mainly indigenous people. The World Bank had to withdraw from the project in 1994 after an independent review found systematic violations of its social and environmental policies. After this humiliating experience, the bank stayed out of mega-dams for more than a decade.

Three Gorges: Mao’s dream come true

China’s Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and was completed in 2008. It generates as much power as eight large nuclear power plants, displaced more than 1.2 million people, and ravaged the ecosystem of the Yangtze River. The Chinese government has acknowledged the problems of the project, but continues to export its technology overseas.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Hundreds of Sudanese holding banners supporting their President Omar Al-Bashir during the inauguration of the massive hydro-electric dam in Merowe, north of Khartoum, on 3 March 2009.

Hundreds of Sudanese people hold banners supporting President Omar Al-Bashir during the inauguration of the massive hydro-electric dam in Merowe, north of Khartoum, on 3 March 2009. Photograph: Philip Dhill/EPAInga 3: Africa’s next white elephant?

With the Inga 3 Project on the Congo river, the World Bank returned to building mega-dams in 2014. Even though the bank has failed to complete much smaller projects on the Congo, Inga 3 is only the first phase of the world’s biggest hydropower scheme. The project will have limited local impacts, will bypass poor consumers and benefit mining companies instead.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Elwha River Restoration, Glines Canyon Dam removal, Lake Mills reservoir being drawn down, March 16, 2012,

Elwha river restoration: Glines Canyon Dam removal on Lake Mills reservoir. Photograph: Joel Rogers/CorbisPatagonia: the dams that were never built

In recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

What you can do

Renewable energy rather than mega dams and fossil fuels is the right choice for the 21st century. Even so, numerous destructive dams continue to be proposed and built on the Mekong, in the Amazon, throughout Africa, in China, theHimalayas and other parts of the world. Find out what you can do to stop destructive dams and protect the arteries of our planet!

Peter Bosshard is the policy director at International Rivers. He tweets at @PeterBosshard


The 7th Conference of Ekopotamya Network

2015conferenceA view from the conference which was held in Sulaimany, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The 7th conference of the Ekopotamya Network was held in Sulaimany, Iraqi Kurdistan on 25th March, 2015, by participating people from Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

The conference was based on evaluating of the network’s activities and, some presentations about environment, and water issues. These presentations are below:

1. Water and Terrorism (by CDO)
2. Dust Storm in Mesopotamia (by Alpin Club of Iran)
3. The Role of Water in the War in Syria-Rojava (by Hasankeyf Initiative)
4. Water Crisis In Iraq; Threats and Solution (by Environments Friends Network)
5. Kani Bil and Daryan Dam (by Karezeh)

All presentations will be available on the website of Ekopotamya Network.
Ekopotamya Network members have conference twice per year, usually in Amed (Diyarbekir, Turkey) and in Sulaimany (KRG, Iraq)

Hasankeyf becomes a prohibited zone



Hasankeyf, which is threatened by the Ilısu Dam project, is becoming a prohibited zone. Despite a judgment of the Council of State suspending work on the project due to the absence of an Environmental Impact Report, barriers have been put up around the bridge in the 12,000 year-old town to prevent visitors gaining access. The ban on visitors going to the caves in the town introduced after a rock fall is also still in place.

Although efforts are continuing for Hasankeyf to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list tourists wishing to see the town are encountering new obstacles. The police have put up a road block preventing access. And finally, security guards from the company in charge of the project are stopping tourists who want to take photos of the old bridge, after barriers were placed around it to protect it from the water that will rise once the dam is built.

The fate of Hasankeyf depends on 30 March

Recep Kavuş, an activist from the Save Hasankeyf Initiative, said that there has been a deafening silence about the Ilısu Dam recently, adding that the party that wins the election of 30 March will determine the destiny of the town. Kavuş added: “Hasankeyf is under threat from the Ilısu Dam. Time is running out. According to the government the dam will be finished in 2 years. Work has been stepped up for relocating the town. Hasankeyf is just awaiting its fate alone and without resisting. Unfortunately, civil society organisations are unable to raise their voices. Everything depends on the attitude of the party that wins the elections.  The decision of the people of Hasankeyf is important.”

The construction firm ignores the courts

Kavuş said that despite there being a stay of execution made by the Council of State the construction company had carried out excavations under the ancient bridge. “Despite all this illegality, political parties and democratic organisations have no programme or plan. The candidates should explain to the people what they intend to do to save Hasankeyf. Reactions made once Hasankeyf has been submerged like Zeugma will be futile. We must raise our voices in opposition before our cultural legacy is wiped off the map.”



The hydro-energy policy of the Turkish government in the Kurdish territory is leading  reaction and protests of Kurdish people. As it is known, the Ilisu Dam which is constructed on the Tigris River is a big problem and people from Kurdish territory in Turkey and Iraq, and also the marshland Arabs in Iraq are suffering because of this dam. Local people always show their reactions against to Iilisu Dam, and trying to stop the construction.

However, these reactions does not change the hydro-energy policy of Turkish government because beside the clamining the necessity of energy,  there are also some political reasons to build dams on the Tigris. Many people think that the dam policy of the Turkish government is arises from its desire to put control on the Kurdish territory in Iraq.

Recently, Turkish government has planned to build new three dams on the Tigris River. One of these dam will be very close to the city center of Diyarbekir, and the other two ones will be close to the Dicle (Pîran) district of Diyarbekir.

Yesterday, on 18th November, against to these new planned dams spesificly, and the dam policy of the Turkish government in general, a protest was held in Diyarbakir. Hundreds of people met and protested the government. The protesters claimed that  construction of dams, and destroction nature in the Kurdish territory is a kind of “cultural genocide” against to Kurdish people, and the goverment has to stop to build new dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

The new planned three dams was also critisized at the conference of the Ekopotamya Network in Diyarbakir, and the participants of the conference from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria had declareted their  opposition aginst these new three dams, as the previous ones.

Road blockade by inhabitants of Hasankeyf against ILISU Dam


The Inhabitants of the antique city Hasankeyf have blocked the main road through their city in order to protest the Ilisu Dam Project and especially the resettlement process. The road connects the provincial capital Batman with the cities Midyat, Cizre and the Iraqi border and is intensively used.
More than 500 people gathered on the bridge over the Tigris River in the early morning where they persisted and sat untill the afternoon although hundreds of policemen gathered and threatened the people. The same day in Hasankeyf all students boycotted the schools and shop-owners closed their shops.
The people demanded the stop of the resettlement process done by the state body State Water Works (DSI). The people criticized the resettlement process which started three years ago. The DSI foresees small amounts for the current buildings and the triple price for the new houses in “New-Hasankeyf” which is in the constructing phase for two years and located 2 km in the North. Furthermore in the new settlement area are almost no opportunities planned for the new inhabitants which means a long-term impoverishment. Thats why they shouted “Our caves are enough, we do not need villas”, “DSI, stop these works”, “Resettlement is deception”, “You have stolen our childhood, hands off from our future”.

Also the governor of Hasankeyf Temel Ayca, appointed by the central government and the mayor of Hasankeyf Abdulvahap Kusen could not change the view of the people. In the afternoon the protestors have end the blockade without any arrestation.
Considering the comparatively silence of the last two years by the most inhabitants of Hasankeyf this action increases the protest against the destructive Ilisu Project which is under construction for three years. It is planned by the government to complete the construction within two years.

See attachment for pictures of the protest!

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive

They burned cars, beat the workers and security guards


Source: Haberler.com

People who are against the hydroelectric plant in Trabzon’s county of Çaykara burned down a car and beat the security guards and workers. Gendarma took 3 people into custody.

According to a claim, at 4:00 o c’lock in the morning a group of people wearing masks burned the road construction digger which was building equipment  for the hydroelectric plant.  After burning down the  machine the group of 10 people beat  2 security guards and other workers. After the incident Gendarme started an investigation and identified 4 of the suspects, 3 of them  were taken into custody, and Gendarma started to look for other suspects who were  identified by people who had been  beaten.Investigation is ongoing for this incident.

The decision to “confiscate” for HES Stopped

18/06/2012 2:00

Enis Tayman/Radikal Gazetesi

İSTANBUL-6. Council of state decided to stop the executive in the lawsuit of elazığ peri suyu pebmelik dam.by that desicion, the urgent expropriation of EPDK denied until the outcome of lawsuit.

The Council of state,wouldn’t give the aouthory of urgent expropriation to another instution.Firstly the aouthory of  “confiscate” has been in the expropriation law to be used during the war in 1939.council of ministers handed over this right to the Energy Market Regulatory Authority(EPDK) in 2004.EPDK used this right for petroleum,natural gas,mining and energy sectors.this way,before used the urban renewal of Mersin Özgürlük,Çilek and Çay districts and cyanide mining projects of İzmir-Efemçukuru and Uşak-Eşme.also this way used in hasankeyf,amasya-taşova and dersim HES dam projescts.

For the dam project of elazığ –karakoçan called pembelik barajı they resorted to the same treatment and they confiscated the possessions of Hasan Akyol by the urgent expropriation.6.council of state stopped excecutive for the aouthority given to another instution.akyol’s lawyer mehmet horuş said the executive decision includes also the council of ministers.

Translate:Serkan Arat

Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive


Press Release/26.07.2012

Dam construction site destroyed in the Kurdish East of Turkey!

On the 25th July, Wednesday, more than 500 protesting people in the. Kurdish province Dersim have destroyed the construction site of the, highly criticized Pembelik Dam on the Peri River. Since September 2012 local affected people along the Peri River, a border River of the two provinces Dersim (Tunceli) and Elazig protest continously against the construction of the 77 m high and 125 MW Pembelik Dam on the Peri River. Since then they have pitched protest tents close to the construction site of the dam which they refuse categorically. The affected people criticize the state for destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people through the construction of the Pembelik and other dams on the Peri River and for excluding them from any dam construction activities. Two other dams have been built in the past and have resulted in negative impacts for people and nature in the whole valley. Although the protest continues for so long and there is a big regional and national solidarity, no state official took into consideration the local people. More than 500 people, affected people and people in solidarity with them, gathered close to the dam in order to start a protest demonstration. It was one day before the start of the annual big Munzur Culture and Nature Festival which is the biggest cultural event in the province of Dersim. After marching some kilometers they decided to occupy the dam constructing site although it is protected by many security guards. These guards and dozens of soldiers could not stopped the people although they fired in the air. The protesters overcame the gates and fences and then destroyed several construction machines and some buildings by fire.To date this protest is the most radical one in the Kurdish region of  the Republic of Turkey. In Dersim for more than ten years there are protests by people against dams which are refused by more than 90% of the population. It considers the dams as tools to destroy the wild  nature, to displace people and to “pacify” the rebellious province Dersim.

The anger of women to HES

Ahmet bayrak/muğla(DHA)

The hydroelectric power plant(HES) that will be built on muğla göktepe and çamoluk villages, protested.

Female Members of Mediterrenean greens assocation and göktepe-çamoluk villages sarhoş stream platform had a meeting and they showed kind of banner.CHP(turkish republic party) muğla city president said that they will have a discussion on turkish parlamento by parlamantars.göktepe and çamoluk stream platform lawyer kadriye beceren “muğla 2.administrative court will deal with the issue that our request for stop that execution”.mediterrenean greens assocation’s leader mustafa turgut said that the people of region ask us for help them to stop the demolition and he said “we are together with our friends and we will be together on that protest”another protester fatma kavlak(79) said “if its necessary we will give our lifes to not loose our nature”

Alcohol protest at Sarhoş stream against HES

June 18 Monday

Cihan news agency

There was intereseting protest in muğla-göktepe village against hydroelectric power plants(HES).akdeniz yeşiller derneği,dev-lis and chp supported the protest but from the 2000 populated village there was less people to support.protesters entertained with music and swam in the stream.

Protesters responses countinues aganist HES that will be built on sarhoş stream.peasantry prosecuted HES april 10 2012, after HES information conference.today,peasantry met again near the stream and protested.men are drunk alcohol and women entered in the water with a banner.

One of the protesters lawyer kadriye beceren,said they prosecuted again HES and they gave all information to the court.göktepe village reeve tuncay demirtaş said that they will never give their own earth and they will have argue til the end.chief executive of akdeniz yeşiller assocation mustafa turgut told that “the people of göktepe asked us for help so we are here now.that was a good protest and it will go on.we will take this stream.there is no life without water.life is water.we will not give our life to them.”

Translate:Serkan Arat