Photograph: Lori Pottinger/International Rivers
Dams: development or control?
1st June, 2009
The vast dams clogging the veins of Africa are instruments of control rather than promised hydroelectric liberation. Khadija Sharife investigates.
Since the dawn of time, history has evidenced that the greatest civilisations were born on the fertile banks of ancient river systems, ranging from Mesopotamia’s Tigris and Euphrates to Egypt’s Nile, China’s Hwang or Yellow river, and the Elvis or king of rivers, the Indus.
Yet the rise of these scientific, commercial and economic powerhouses has not only resulted in technologies seeking to harness the power of rivers as an economic force for good, but also exclusively to dominate this vital source of life through centralised control.
Nowhere is the game of hydropolitical poker so lethal and receptive to drought, conflict and corruption as in Africa, a continent punctured by poverty, mal- and underdevelopment, unsustainable resource exploitation, capital flight, structural adjustment and, increasingly, climate change.
Presently, more than 60 per cent of Africa is dependent on mega-dams as a source of hydroelectric power, such as Zambia (96 per cent), Uganda (99 per cent), Mozambique (91 per cent), Ethiopia (89 per cent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (99 per cent), in conjunction with a host of client states including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Togo and Benin. This is...
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