Dam Builders Cut Corners on Safety

There will always therefore be pressure for dam builders to cut corners on safety.

A confidential 1991 World Bank report notes that because of “financial factors

and local pressure to take shortcuts or ignore poor quality work,” construction

quality in India is “deficient for a number of dams, posing serious potential risk

to downstream populations.”

The report explains how during construction “large illicit profits can be made by

using substandard materials.” Patrick McCully


And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Dam Safety Concerns Grow in Wake of Failures, Changing Climate

World Rivers Review, June 2005

In February, five dams in Pakistan burst after torrential rains swelled local rivers.

The biggest of these – the 35-meter Shadikor Dam – killed at least 80 people,

injured many more and left 4,000 families homeless. The Shadikor Dam was

only two years old. It appears that no warnings were given to people downstream.

Two months later, at least 62 people died in a dam-created flash flood on the

Narmada River in India. Again, there was no warning. The banks of the river

were crowded with Hindu pilgrims a day ahead of the new moon, a period when

many bathe in the holy river to wash away their sins. The tragedy occurred

after the gates of the Indira Sagar Dam, about 60 miles upstream, were

opened without warning. The dam operator, the Narmada Hydroelectric

Development Corporation, denied responsibility, saying the releases were

standard practice, and that state officials should have informed them about the festival.

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