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Top 3 controversial hydropower dam projects

Most hydropower dams in the world have been facing controversy due to widespread impact on local communities, changes in river ecosystems, geologic hazards,regional water disputes among others.

Construction Review Online looks at some of the hydropower dam projects that have been halted due to various reasons:

Three Gorges Dam, China
Three Georges Dam boasts as the world’s biggest hydropower project and its located on the Yangtze River in the Hubei Province of China became fully operational in 2012, submerging 632km2 of land and displacing over 1.5 million people.

The project which was 181 tall and spread in a land covering massive reservoir 660km long and 1.1km wide, holding 42 billion tonnes of water behind the dam’s wall was being funded by the Chinese government.

Before the project was completed it had very many stop overs as the government was being accused of not conducting good research of environmental and social economic assessment and transparency before starting he projects.

According to some Nongovernmental organizations the government ignored key negative impacts that were listed in the report before it was constructed.

Most of the Ngos sued the government for forcefully violating human rights and forced displacements process during the early stages of identifying the land for the projects.

The Grand Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia

The Grand Renaissance Dam project is the largest Hydro dam in the African soil so far and is currently being constructed by the Ethiopian state of Beneshangul Gumuz, on the Blue Nile.
The project has always raised fear that downstream countries Sudan and Egypt could suffer from drastically reduced river flow – practically shutting down the Nile.

While Sudan and Egypt are entitled to 90% of the Blue Nile’s flow in an agreement made during the 1920s, the reality is that Ethiopia holds 86% of the river’s water in its territory, allowing great geo-political leverage over the region’s most important natural resource.
In the early years the project was stopped by various residents ganged up by Ngos that the project would affect the residents negatively and they called for intervention of environmental organizations.

Construction of the 145m high roller compacted concrete (RCC) dam started in April 2011 and was 30% complete by March 2014, completion is expected in 2017.

Belo Monte Dam, Brazil
The Belo Monte Dam project, which has been under construction since March 2011 on the Xingu River in the Pará state of Brazil faced fierce resistance from the Xingu’s indigenous peoples and social movements aided by International agencies.

With 11,233MW installed capacity, Belo Monte will be the world’s third biggest hydroelectric project when it starts full-fledged operation in 2019. The project was first proposed in 1975 but subsequently abandoned due to stiff opposition from environmental activists and local people.

It was redesigned and revived in 2003, and received partial environmental license from the Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA) in February 2010. The redesigned project, which is being constructed with an estimated investment of $13bn, is however battling at national and international tribunals against charges of displacing thousands of indigenous people and devastating over 1,500km2 of Brazilian rainforest in the Amazon basin.

The Belo Monte project will consist of two dams, one massive canal, two reservoirs and an extensive system of dikes, and will divert about 80% of the Xingu’s flow to run the dam’s powerhouse, risking drying up the river’s 100km long “Big Bend.”

It is alleged the dam project will result in forced displacement of around 40,000 people including indigenous communities and the extinction of up to a thousand fish species.

The project is also alleged to negatively impact the tradition, livelihood, and health of traditional communities including the Juruna and Arara indigenous peoples living along the “Big Bend”.

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