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Are Big Dams Necessary?

Are Big Dams Necessary?

India holds a strong position in the list of large dam building countries after US and China. According to the World Commission on dams: Over the last 50 years, India has built more than 1500 BIG DAMS. In a survey it was found that in 1947, there were around 300 Big dams in India, And Today, there are almost 4,300 Big dams in our country.
Throughout the history of the world, Big dams have been used successfully in collecting, storing and managing water needed to sustain civilization. It have been playing an important role of harnessing the river waters for accelerating socio-economic growth and mitigating occurrence of floods and droughts. Water is essential for the development of the industries and agriculture. The primary benefit of Big dams is the water supply for domestic and industrial use. Other key benefits are:

  • Meeting the agricultural demand
  • Irrigation
  •  Hyrdo power Generation
  •  Inland Navigation
  • Recreation

Now question arises Are Big Dams Necessary?

Are Big Dams Necessary?

With rain being sporadic because of rainy seasons and variations between different parts of the country, the idea of storing river water in reservoirs behind BIG dams seemed to be a great solution but the question is whether it is ethical to generate Hydro power from big dams and high economic growth on the sacrifice of the underprivileged? The resurgent hydropower sector promises to generate electricity but at the same time threatens to uproot communitiesdestroy their livelihoods and river ecosystems on which millions depend. Lets take an Example of Sardar Sarovar dam which is the Largest dam and a Large hydraulic engineering project involving the construction of a series of large irrigation and hydroelectricity but at the same time it is one of India’s most Controversial dam projects because of its environmental ,safety impacts and socio-economic issues.  

Are Big Dams Necessary?

Points to be known:-

  • In the year 1947, there were around 300 large dams in India. And now, there are almost 4,300 large dams.
  • India holds a strong position in the list of dam building countries after US and China.

Advantages of Dams

Advantages of dams are numerous, that is the reason so much money and work goes into building and maintaining them. Some of the advantages are:

  • Electricity is produced at the constant rate with the help of hydroelectricity or hydroelectric power.
  • If there is no need for electricity, then the sluice gates can also be closed or stopping the generation of electricity. Water can also be saved for the use of another time as and when the demand for electricity is high hence the usage of water remains judicious.
  • Dams are so designed by well-qualified engineers to span many of the decades and also can contribute to the generation of electricity for about many years or even decades to come.
  • The lake or reservoir which forms behind the dam can also be used for the irrigation purpose, water sports or even as other forms of pleasurable activities.Few large dams such as the Bhakra Nangal dam present in India is the tourist attractions.
  • The buildup of water inside lake means that the energy can also be stored when needed and also when water is released for producing the electricity.
  • When used, the produced electricity by the dams does not even produce the greenhouse gases and also hence they do not pollute the atmosphere.


  • 16 million Indian people have been forced from their homes because of construction of big dams and not enough resettlement sites have been set up for the amount of people already displaced.
  •  Big dams causes Earthquakes (bcos of the weight of water in reservoirs), release Greenhouse gas (bcos of rotting of flooded vegetation)
  • Environmental Impacts:-
  • Threat to aquatic habitat –barriers for fish passage, water quality is affected because of change in land use can also affect aquatic life
  •  Water logging – excess water in the soil can render the soil useless
  •  Salinisation – When the land to be irrigated is an arid area and not used to so much water then irrigation water has more saline content and adds more salt to the system
  •  Deforestation– Big Dams are now occupying forests.
  • Health Impacts:-
     Outbreak of diseases – the concern of an increase in malaria because of the increased reservoirs and water logged lands, which are prime locations for mosquitoes to breed.

The fact is that the problems with large dams are many and serious, they won’t go away—and neither will controversies so Alternatives should be promoted and brought into use as much as possible through spreading the wisdom of traditional Water Harvesting techniques in most drought-prone areas and start working with cities, towns to install Rainwater harvesting structures on rooftops all over India. Lastly we must realise that there are no unlimited sources of energy, so we must at some point limit consumption of electricity and use it more efficiently!

Conclusion :-

We need dams. However by focusing more on alternative methods, need of big dams will lessen over time. When dams are constructed, care must be taken to rehabilitate all. Dams must be built on a strong rock foundation and total dam must be strong enough to tolerate natural disasters.

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