Ageing dams in India US other nations pose growing threat
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NEW YORK: Over a thousand giant dams in India might be roughly 50 years outdated in 2025 and such growing old constructions internationally pose a rising menace, in accordance with a UN report which notes that by 2050, most individuals on Earth will dwell downstream of tens of 1000’s of dams constructed within the 20th century.
The report, titled ‘Ageing water infrastructure: An rising international threat’ and compiled by United Nations University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, says many of the 58,700 giant dams worldwide had been constructed between 1930 and 1970 with a design lifetime of 50 to 100 years.
It stated at 50 years, a big concrete dam “would most probably begin to express signs of ageing.”
Ageing indicators embody growing circumstances of dam failures, progressively growing prices of dam restore and upkeep, growing reservoir sedimentation, and lack of a dam’s performance and effectiveness, “strongly interconnected” manifestations, the report stated.
“By 2050, most people on Earth will live downstream of tens of thousands of large dams built in the 20th century, many of them already operating at or beyond their design life,” in accordance with the UN University evaluation.
The evaluation contains dam decommissioning or ageing case research from the USA, France, Canada, India, Japan, and Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to the report, the world is unlikely to witness one other giant dam-building revolution as within the mid-20th century, however dams constructed then will inevitably be displaying their age.
The report stated that 32,716 giant dams (55 per cent of the world’s whole) are present in simply 4 Asian international locations: China, India, Japan, and South Korea – a majority of which can attain the 50-year threshold comparatively quickly.
The similar is true of many giant dams in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, it stated.
In India, there are over 1,115 giant dams that might be roughly 50 years outdated in 2025, greater than four,250 giant dams within the nation might be over 50 years outdated in 2050 and 64 giant dams might be greater than 150 years outdated in 2050, it stated.
The report stated that roughly three.5 million individuals are in danger if India’s Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala, constructed over 100 years in the past, “were to fail”.
“The dam, in a seismically energetic space, exhibits vital structural flaws and its administration is a contentious challenge between Kerala and Tamil Nadu States,” it stated.
The report added that dams which might be properly designed, constructed and maintained can “simply” reach 100 years of service but predicts an increase in “decommissioning” – a phenomenon gaining tempo within the USA and Europe – as financial and sensible limitations stop ageing dams from being upgraded or if their authentic use is now out of date.
In the US, the common age of 90,580 dams is 56 years. More than 85 per cent of US dams in 2020 had been working at or past their life expectancy and 75 per cent of US dam failures occurred after 50 years of age. The estimated value to refurbish US dams is about USD 64 billion. Nearly 1,275 dams had been eliminated in 21 US states within the final 30 years; 80 eliminated in 2017 alone, it stated.
Worldwide, the massive quantity of water saved behind giant dams is estimated at 7,000 to eight,300 cubic kilometres – sufficient to cowl about 80 per cent of Canada’s landmass beneath a meter of water.
The report’s co-author Vladimir Smakhtin, Director of UNU-INWEH, stated the report goals to draw international consideration to the creeping challenge of ageing water storage infrastructure and stimulate worldwide efforts to cope with this rising, rising water threat.
“Underlined is the truth that the rising frequency and severity of flooding and different excessive environmental occasions can overwhelm a dam’s design limits and speed up a dam’s ageing course of. Decisions about decommissioning, due to this fact, must be taken within the context of a altering local weather,” Smakhtin stated.
Lead writer and UNU-INWEH Senior Researcher Duminda Perera stated the issue of ageing giant dams right this moment confronts a comparatively small variety of international locations – 93 per cent of all of the world’s giant dams are positioned in simply 25 nations.
“Large dam development surged within the mid-20th century and peaked within the 1960s – 70s particularly in Asia, Europe and North America, whereas in Africa the height occurred within the 1980s. The variety of newly-constructed giant dams after that constantly and progressively declined,” he siad.
The tempo of huge dam development has dropped dramatically within the final 4 a long time and continues to say no partly as a result of “the best locations for such dams globally have been progressively diminishing as nearly 50 per cent of global river volume is already fragmented or regulated by dams,” the report says.
There are additionally sturdy considerations concerning the environmental and social impacts of dams, and huge dams particularly, in addition to rising concepts and practices on the choice sorts of water storage, nature-based options, and sorts of power manufacturing past hydropower, it stated.
Public security, escalating upkeep prices, reservoir sedimentation, and restoration of a pure river ecosystem are among the many causes driving dam decommissioning, the report stated, including that total, dam decommissioning ought to be seen as equally necessary as dam constructing within the total planning course of on water storage infrastructure developments.

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