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An Outlook on the Problems

Caused by Dams
By Group 8, HUL 275, 4
IIT Delhi
An Introduction
Dams are barriers that impound bodies of
water or underground streams of water.
They generally serve the primary purpose of
retaining water to be used later in a variety of
Worldwide, the amount of water stored in
reservoirs behind dams is 3 to 6 times the
quantity contained in rivers.

Classification of Dams
Storage dams -- Store water during the wet
season for use during the dry season.
Diversion dams -- Push water off into irrigation
Detention dams -- Trap sediments, and sit
there waiting to block floods.
Overflow dams -- Slow the movement of
excess water, but still allow a significant
amount to continue.
Industrial dams -- Hold water to generate
electricity/industrial applications.

Dams In India
In terms of number of dams, India ranks fourth
after China, USA and Russia.
4710 completed large dams and 390 are under-
In India most of the dams are maintained by the
State Governments while there are a few other
organizations, namely, Bhakra Beas Management
Board (BBMB), Damodar Valley Corporation
(DVC) and National Hydro Electric Power
Corporation (NHPC) who also now own and
operate dams.
National Policies Regarding Dams
The Land Acquisition Act, 1894
The Environment Protection Act, 1986
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980
The Water Prevention and Control of Pollution
Act, 1981
The Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act,
The National Rehabilitation and Resettlement
Policy, 2007
Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement
Act, 2013
International Policies:
The World Commission on Dams
Convention on the Law of the Non-
Navigational Uses of International
Watercourses (Adopted by the United
The Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters
of International Rivers
Berlin Rules on Water Resources (Adopted
by International Law Association)

To collect water for storage
Power generation
Water supply
Stabilize water flow/irrigation
Flood prevention
Land reclamation
Water diversion
Aquatic beauty

Big Dams are to a nations development what nuclear bombs
are to its military arsenal. Theyre both weapons of mass
Dams can have devastating effects on rivers, freshwater
ecosystems, and the people who depend on them.
Very few of the worlds rivers now run uninterrupted from
their source to the sea.
Fragmentation of rivers affects the migration of fish,
disrupts the transport of sediments, cuts off floodplains
from life-giving floods, and threatens many endangered
Disrupting Sedimentation Transport increases flood risk
The build up of sedimentation in the reservoir also reduces
the dam's capacity and operational lifetime.

Dams can destroy livelihoods
and their costs often outweigh their benefits
Dams are expensive and the projected financial
costs are often inaccurate. The benefits are often
overestimated, driven by the incentives of
politicians, developers, contractors, consultants,
and banks to implement new projects. And since,
most of the world's dams are now being built in
developing countries, it is even more important
that a project makes economic sense.

Dams disturb natural fluctuations in water flow.
This can be particularly damaging in seasonal floodplains,
affecting deposits of nutrients as well as the lifecycles of
species that depend on these fluctuations for feeding and
breeding grounds. Dams change daily flows by releasing
water as a reaction to human demands, like energy and
irrigation, instead of as nature intended.
Water quality can be degraded.
Reductions in water quantities can increase salinity and
make the water unusable for drinking and irrigation.
Decomposition of organic matter and the leaching of
mercury from the soil can introduce toxins.
Reservoirs can emit climate-changing greenhouse gases.
Particularly in tropical areas, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and
methane as flooded trees and plants decompose is a serious cause for
concern that needs more investigation.
Legal issues between states
Old dams structurally compromising
Multipurpose Dams are inherently counter productive
The thing about multipurpose dams like the Sardar Sarovar is that
their purposes conflict with one another. Irrigation uses up the water
you need to produce power. Flood control requires you to keep the
reservoir empty during the monsoon months to deal with an
anticipated surfeit of water. And if theres no surfeit, youre left with
an empty dam. And this defeats the purpose of irrigation, which is to
store the monsoon water.