The current situation of flash flooding in Pakistan spread like a wildfire around the globe. People from every corner of the world stand in solidarity with the victims of the flood. Whereas, some are criticizing and suggesting that Pakistan needs to build more dams. There is a scarcity of dams in Pakistan. But the point is what are dams? Why are they important? What are their benefits? This article explains all of these questions.
What are Dams?
The man-made structures over a naturally existing water reserve like a stream, river, or sea control the flow of water. It is a hydraulic structure that is built on the upper side or upstream of the water reservoir and the water flows downstream. This water contains a lot of mechanical energy that we use for various purposes.
History of Dams
Water is a crucial natural resource on earth that demands storage and protection. It is not beneficial only for mankind but also for the wildlife that lives in the water. The idea of dams’ construction was also present in ancient Mesopotamia. They built a dam around 4 BCE and it is still present in Jordan. It is known as the Jawa Dam. We also see this concept in Romans and built the Cornalvo dam in the second CE. This dam is present in Spain and still in use.
The major purpose of these oldest and small dams was to fulfill the day-to-day necessities of individuals like bathing, washing, drinking, and growing crops. They started producing electricity after the industrial revolution. During the Great Depression period, President Franklin Roosevelt put the idea of the construction of the Hoover dam. It is built over the Colorado River. After the industrial revolution, the era of ‘big dams’ commenced.
Different types of dams
The dam is a general term that we use for all of them. But some different names and terminologies exist in civil engineering that differentiate one from the other. Based on their storage we have the following types of dams.
The type stores the water in case of rain when the flow in the river is high. Subsequently, in the summer season, this reserved water becomes a source to fulfill the demand.
As the name implies they divert the direction of water from a river to an auxiliary canal or stream. These are small and provide water flow for the canal system, lakes, and ditches.
These dams are built, at rivers upstream, to detain water in case of flash floods. Also, protect the population living downstream from flood water. They retain the water and release it afterward.
Such dams collect debris like sand and gravel and clean the water.
These dams facilitate the construction process of a dam by filtering the water so the construction is done in a dry environment.
How do they protect the environment?
Climate change is not a myth. The recent monsoon rains in Pakistan are just one practical example. Pakistan has 7253 glaciers and contributes less than 1% to the world’s carbon emissions. However, the industrialist states contribute a lot. But climate change is not the issue of big states only, it is a global issue. Everyone is affected by it.
The outcome of climate change affects the environment and dams protect us. Fast melting of glaciers, unprecedented heavy rains, and flash floods are common examples of climate change. Dams protect the lives and property of a big population. They can save us from a humanitarian crisis. They protect the environment by;
- Storing the flood water
- Protecting communities from flood water
- Saving the country from the financial crisis
- Defending the crops and land
- Lowering the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation
Benefits of Dams
It is a myth that dams are built for electricity generation only. Not to mention that power production is the purpose of dams but they also satisfy other needs of a country’s population. The biggest advantages are as follows
- Control flood water
Controlling the flood water dams protects the environment and the general population. The storage dams are a blessing, if properly utilized, by containing the extra water in the monsoon season. They can protect the states from great havoc and prevent a flood from wrecking the communities.
- Help in irrigation
In some countries, the agricultural system depends on canal water and other water reservoirs. These canals do not generate their water but feed on rainwater or melting glaciers. The diversion dams are an example of feeding the canals and streams. If they do not exist, the agricultural infrastructure will destroy due to the shortage of water.
- Generation of electricity
Undoubtedly, dams are the source of electricity generation around the world. And they provide almost 19% of the whole world’s electricity. Water’s mechanical energy is converted into kinetic energy when it falls with a rush from the Sluice gates and turns the turbine. These turbines make the generators produce electricity by the movement of turbines. Hence, they provide us with green and clean energy.
- Protect the environment
The electricity generation power of the dams protects the environment from toxic gaseous materials. To gain light energy still many states rely on burning fossil fuels. These fuels are not a reliable source of energy. The world needs to find alternate solutions. Water and dams are two reliable and cheaper options.