Sunday, July 25, 2010

If The Dam Breaks

Three Gorges Dam's floodgates open in Yichang, 
China's Hubei province, 20-7-2010
Three Gorges Dam

Severe flooding in China is putting pressure on the countries controversial Three Gorges Dam, built to hold back the flow of the Yangtze river. Heavy rains are continuing to fall, creating the worse flooding in a decade.

With floodwaters hovering at times, some 17 meters below the dam's maximum capacity, should human beings consider that maybe it is time to work with nature rather than try to overcome nature? If the amount of water behind the Three Gorges Dam exceeds the capacity of the floodgates, then someone has a problem downstream.

Dams are an environmental disaster. They put masses of water in places nature is not designed to hold masses of water. That alone changes the water/air evaporation rates, as well as changing the rate of seepage into the surrounding landscape and beyond.

Water is heavy and it has a large earth-seepage rate. When a dam is built and the water sits on land it was never meant to sit on, then the builders of the dams also change the way and the rate water is retained in and around the physical landscape. Water does not only evaporate, it sinks creating landslides and potentially causing earthquakes.

I could be wrong, but I think the reason for building the Three Gorges Dam was to decrease flooding .. but that assumes nature does not know what it is doing and human's do know better. It would never occur to the designers and financiers of Geo-Landscaping projects that the way a river is designed allows for environmental changes over tens of thousands of years.

A river like the Yangtze, for example, exists to deal with any variable of climatic change from drought to extreme water from the sky situations .. because that is what the Earth does. We humans may live for 70 to 90 years at one go, but the planet (nature) has ecological growth cycles of hundreds and then thousands of years.

Every now and then inhabitants of the planet will see extreme behavior of the weather, that is all part of a natural cycle. The climate is not always 'stable' down here .. it can be stable, but things can get pretty dramatic. On top of that, when human's dam the lifeblood of the planet? I am sure it can get even more colorful during times of extreme weather cycles.

Aging and Abandoned Dams

As the dams age, and it is not so easy to 'repair' an aging dam, then what alternatives are there to future generations other than to take the dam apart? Even better than that, abandoned dams are left to sit and rot without maintenance because upgrades to the dam are too costly. Rather than abandon them, dams would have to be decommissioned and the surrounding areas rehabilitated. So, what were the Chinese thinking of when they built the Three Gorges Dam?

Technical studies have found that the aging of dams accelerates after 50 years. It would seem that leaves the Yangtze problem for those in 2060, unless nature takes care of it before then.

Research Notes:
Are Large Dams Altering Extreme Weather patterns? #o#
Three Gorges Dam Safety Analysis #o#