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  • 10 January, 2023

  • 7 Min Read

Dams in Indian Territory

Dams in Indian Territory

  • According to a United Nations (UN) research titled "Aging Water Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk," over 1,000 big dams in India would be around 50 years old by 2025, and comparable aging embankments around the world constitute an increasing concern.
  • According to a United Nations research, around 3,700 dams in India may lose 26% of their entire storage by 2050 owing to sediment deposition, which might jeopardize future water security, irrigation, and power generation.
  • The research was carried out by the United Nations University Institute on Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH), also known as the UN's water think tank.

About the report:

  • In terms of large dam construction, India ranks third in the world.
  • Approximately 1,100 big dams have already reached 50 years of age, with some dating back more than 120 years.
  • By 2050, the number of such dams will have risen to 4,400.
  • Sediment has already robbed around 50,000 major dams worldwide of 13 to 19% of their whole initial storage capacity.
  • It reveals that the initial global storage of 6,316 billion cubic meters in 47,403 big dams in 150 nations will fall to 4,665 billion cubic meters by 2050, resulting in a 26% storage loss.
  • The loss of 1,650 billion cubic meters of storage capacity is about equivalent to India's, China's, Indonesia's, France's, and Canada's combined annual water demand.
  • The Asia-Pacific area, the world's most dammed region, is expected to lose 13% of its initial dam storage capacity by 2022.
  • By mid-century, it will have lost roughly a quarter (23%) of its initial storage capacity.
  • Water storage is critical for sustaining water and food security in the region, which is home to 60% of the world's population.
  • Meanwhile, China, the world's most extensively dammed country, has lost around 10% of its storage capacity and will lose another 10% by 2050.

What Problems Do Indian Dams Cause?

Storage Capacity Decreases:

  • As dams age, dirt replaces the water in reservoirs. As a result, it is not possible to state that storage capacity is the same as it was in the 1900s and 1950s.
  • The storage space in Indian reservoirs is dwindling more quicker than expected.
  • Studies have revealed that the architecture of several of India's reservoirs is incorrect.
  • Indian reservoirs are created with little knowledge of sedimentation science.
  • The designs overestimate the rate of siltation while underestimating the amount of living storage capacity created.

High Rates of Siltation:

  • It refers to both the increased concentration of suspended sediments and the increased buildup (temporary or permanent) of fine sediments on unsuitable bottoms.

Built on the Rainfall Pattern:

  • Indian dams are quite old and were built on the rainfall pattern of the previous decades. In recent years, erratic rainfall has made them vulnerable.
  • However, the government is providing the dams with information systems such as rainfall and flood alarms, as well as emergency action plans, in order to avoid a variety of accidents.
  • Climate change has increased variability in water availability and uncertainties about future water availability.

What are the Consequences of Dam Construction?

  • Environmental Impacts: Dams can disrupt river flow and alter downstream ecosystem, which can harm plants and animals that rely on the natural flow of the river. Dams can also induce soil erosion, sedimentation, and floods downstream.
  • Community Relocation: Dam construction frequently results in the displacement of local communities.
  • This can lead to the loss of homes, lands, and livelihoods, which can be especially catastrophic for vulnerable communities like indigenous people, farmers, and fishermen. For example, the backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam displaced and impacted approximately 1,500 people.
  • Less Water: When soil replaces water in reservoirs, the supply becomes clogged. As time passes, the cropped area receives less and less water.
  • Impact on Groundwater: The net planted water area either declines or becomes dependent on precipitation or overexploited groundwater.
  • Affecting Farmers' Income: Farmers' income may be reduced since water, along with financing, crop insurance, and investment, is a critical element in crop output.
  • It is vital to highlight that sediment-packed dams will not help with climate change adaptation.
  • Cost: Dam construction is an expensive undertaking that can strain both state and federal budgets.
  • Transparency: A lack of transparency in decision-making can contribute to public distrust of dams and the institutions that run them.

Way Forward

  • In the twenty-first century, the country will be unable to find enough water to feed the growing population by 2050, cultivate abundant crops, build sustainable cities, or ensure growth. As a result, it is critical that all parties work together to remedy this problem as soon as possible.
  • A dam failure prevention method is required because no amount of punishment will compensate for the loss of life if a dam breaks.
  • The existence of accountability and transparency while taking into account the perspectives of the real stakeholders—the people living downstream from the dams, who are the most at-risk group in the event of a breach—is the most crucial factor in maintaining dam safety.

Source: The New Indian Express

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