CyberDodo and the Dams (1-37)

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A dam is a human construction built on a water source.

Why are dams constructed?

Primarily, to create water reserves for use in the production of energy (hydroelectric or hydropower) but there are other uses, too. In many cases, the main intention may be, for example:

- to ensure access to water reserves year-round, to service both human uses and agricultural needs
- to regulate watercourses, the flows of which could otherwise prove devastating
- to create navigable waterways by controlling water levels

How long has mankind used dams?

Well, that depends on what one considers to be a “dam”.... because the very first dams have been lost in the mists of time. How so? Quite simply because our planet is home to the greatest dam builders of all time – beavers!

In this connection, it is also important to know that when man has taken it upon himself to build dams, he has quite often used the same locations as beavers, hence destroying their habitats...

Dams have been constructed since the Middle Age, their size and influence on the environment steadily increasing parallel to technological evolution. It is possible to witness the passage of centuries of development if one compares the impoundment of water by means of traditional wheels – that was measured in metres – and the present-day Three Gorges Dam in China which measures over 2 kilometres long !

It is also possible to witness the growing impact of dams if one compares, for example, the basins created by medieval peasants who used them to raise fish and the massive destruction of flora and fauna caused by modern works.

Dams- an ecologically-sound solution?

To kick off the formulation of an answer, let’s consider the world’s largest dam, already mentioned above: the Three Gorges Dam in China.

The objectives of taming the terrible floods of the Yangtze, producing their own electricity and combatting drought in one area of China- do they justify this construction?

While it may certainly be the case that turbines fueled by water do not produce any pollutant emissions, the casting of more than 25 million cubic metres of concrete, the flooding of over 400 square kilometres of earth and displacement of more than 2 million persons is not negligible in terms of lasting impacts on populations and the environment!

Should we continue to build dams?

Dams represent a particularly interesting subject with regard to the protection of Nature, insofar as they beg certain questions, including:

- What are the rights of local populations?
- Do we have the right to flood entire valleys in order to produce energy?
- Man’s ever-increasing energy needs – do they justify the sacrificing of flora and fauna?
- Can we imagine reducing our energy needs?
- What are the long-term consequences of the construction of a dam?
- Is water an inexhaustible resource?
- Etc....

For thousands of years, man has taken from Nature – a resource he imagined to have no limits. However, we now know that this is not the case and that we have already crossed the limit of irreparable damage.

Although we have the necessary technology and means to continue to construct dams all the while bigger and more imposing, we must keep in mind that future generations have the right to an environment that has been preserved, and an hospitable planet.

Time to think....

To see the cartoon on dams, click here

To take the quiz, click here

For the game, here

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