Environmental Impact of Dams

Scientific Essay, 2013

6 Pages, Grade: 10.0



Let us start from some interesting facts:

According to WWF:

- Worldwide the total amount of water stored in dams is 3-6 times more than that contained in rivers.
- The wetlands area during the 20th century has decreased by over 50%.
- Out of the 10,000 recorded freshwater species more than 20% have either become extinct, threatened or endangered in recent times.

These facts are enough to justify the tremendous impact on environment dams are having.

Large scale projects like dams are often floated as important and necessary means of economic development. But this development comes at some or the other cost. Cost to the environment, development and society.

So what are dams really for?

- Water supply for the general public for domestic uses as well as irrigation which is imperative for our agrarian Indian society.
- Hydroelectric power generation. India is the 7th largest producer of hydroelectric power with 114 Tetra-watt hours(Kumar & Mohan 2012).It produces 3.3% of the world total.
- Dams impede the turbulent and sudden flow of water to prevent floods.

Well that is what they are for and granted many of them achieve the above given purposes but they are subject to widespread criticism and debate. Several vehement national and international movements have brought into light the severe problems associated with them.

Dams have been criticized for disturbing natural water flows, affecting deposits of nutrients as well as lifecycles of species that depend on freshwater habitat. Reductions in water quantities can increase salinity and make the water unusable for drinking and irrigation. Decomposition of organic matter and the leaching of mercury from the soil can introduce toxins.

The transport of sediments that are crucial for natural cycles is also affected.

This may cause flood risks, lower groundwater tables and in turn affect entire ecosystems.

With that said we must point out that dams do not always have a negative impact on habitats. E.g. once reservoirs become established they can become sites where birds can thrive. There are cases where dam projects have taken up significant compensation for the environmental damage they had caused during their initial phases, but these cases are few and far between.

In this report, we take up the issue of impact of dams from three different perspectives which we believe are best suited for such a topic: - Economics, Population and Risks and Hazards.

We first present them individually and give a brief analysis of each perspective then we present a comprehensive and thorough conclusion at the end.

Dams and Economy

The first part of our assignment deals with Economic Perspective of Dam’s construction and maintenance, through which, we aspire to question the requirement of Dams and the impact it can have on our economy.

-Economic Benefits: - Once a dam is completed, if it is well designed and maintained, a Hydroelectric Power Source is usually and comparatively cheap and reliable. It has no fuel and low escape risk, and as an alternative energy source it is cheaper than both Nuclear and Wind Power. It is more easily regulated to store as needed and generate high power levels on demand compared to wind power. (Wikipedia (1) 2013). The cost of maintaining a dam can be easily compared to that of other sources. Nuclear Energy requires large capital cost on regular basis (for containment, waste disposal, storage), but dams once constructed have a very negligible (comparatively) maintenance cost. Now, if we try to compare the costs, if we had to re-power on of the largest dams in the U.S., the approximate cost required would be around $ 5 million (and that too after a very - very long time of operation, after the initial construction), whereas the average - sized wind turbines would take $ 3.5 million for each installation (Also, they are very much sensitive to damage by environmental factors as compared to dams). (GTBAY 2010). Though , at a particular instant the difference in the generating capacities of these two is just 0.3 M.W. , with dams at a lead , but if we analyze data for more than a hundred years , dams would be much more reliable and beneficial (economically) than either of wind power or nuclear energy .


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Environmental Impact of Dams
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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503 KB
Dams, Environment, Impact, River, Electricity, Environmental impact of dams, economy, development, hydro-electric, hydro, power plant, windmill, power, energy
Quote paper
Rohit Daroch (Author)Deepankar Arya (Author), 2013, Environmental Impact of Dams, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/275580


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