Ever since ancient times, dams, have provided ancient civilizations with the means to control an essential and valuable resource, water. While there is evidence of ancient civilizations building one form of a dam or another, which were mostly restricted in size, it would take Raja Raja Chola to build the largest dam ever, the Annicut in 1 AD which remarkably continues to function to this day. What makes this dam stand out is the fact that it manages to divert the river’s course, and helps to channel the water effectively. There are other dams, huge ones such as the three gorges dam but the fact that the Annicut was built around 1AD without the help of modern technology truly makes this dam one of a kind.
Why dams are important?
Some of the first city-states developed around 10,000 BC but soon, they realized that they faced a logistical nightmare as more people gravitated towards these early city-states for reasons of security and opportunity. One of the essential resources that mankind depends on happens to be water and ensuring that the local population had easy access to the same became a huge problem. And the fact that some of these city-states depended on seasonal rainfall for their water supply further compounded the problem. This resulted in most of the city-states constructing small water tanks and little mud-brick dams to help divert the water to their farms and fields.
Today, dams form the crux that our society depends on; most of the nations across the world depend on various dams to help supply their population with essential water. Some even use the same to generate power as well; in fact, dams are both essential and important today as they provide a range of economic, environmental and social benefits to the local population. Moreover, these dams help to control flood waters, generate power and even help with waste management. For example, China constructed the three gorges dam a few years back and even though China was widely criticized for building the dam, as it flooded the local area, it nevertheless generates over 22,500 MW which is a lot and moreover, it ranks as #1 when it comes to hydroelectric dams.
Here are a few key reasons as to why dams are important
Flood control: Dams are an effective way to control and regulate the flood waters so that both life and property are not damaged as a result. During periods of excessive rain such as cloudburst or heavy rain, the dam can help store the excess water which can be released back into the river under controlled conditions. It can also help divert the water to other areas and thereby help provide the same with some essential water supply.
Recreational: Even though dams are not constructed for the purpose of recreation, the fact remains that it can be marketed to others as one and the revenue earned can go towards the maintenance of the dam. In fact, most dams do charge an entry fee for allowing the public to view the dam and all the features. Some have even integrated several recreational facilities that cater to the public. So if you are planning to visit a local dam you may want to check online and see if the place in question offers boating, water skiing facilities or something along those lines.
Irrigation: For countries that depend on seasonal rainfall such as monsoon for their water, need to have dams in place that can help store the essential water. Dams can help store the water safely so that it can later be released and used by the local population to meet their irrigation requirements.
Electricity generation: Dams help to produce cheap electricity; granted setting it up may seem like an expensive exercise but the fact remains that the power generated is clean, free and the dam should help pay for itself over the years. The US currently produces over 105000 MW of renewable energy in the form of hydropower which meets 8 to 10 per cent of the nation’s requirements.
Also read: Importance of Biosphere
These are some of the reasons that dams are important and given the fact that drinking water is all the harder to obtain these days, dams are essential for our society as a whole. In fact, it is hard to imagine a scenario where we can do without dams; and moreover, they are a valuable resource that can help to generate clean power that does not release any toxic gases into the atmosphere.