Threats to farmland and fish populations are both big concerns when dams go in. Megadams like the Three Gorges on the Yangtze in China have been widely criticized. Debate becomes heated as growing cities require new sources of electricity, and salmon and sturgeon populations decline. Many would say that we have far too many dams already, and cite degradation of habitats.
While dams are beneficial for the production of hydroelectric power and reservoirs, they pose another set of problems. Dams result in increased erosion downstream because the sediment that would usually travel downriver is trapped, resulting in beaches and riverbanks that are starved for sand and eroding at much faster rates. Creating dams requires the flooding of basin areas which ruins the existing ecosystem in the area. Lesotho, Africa and the Mekong River in Southeast Asia are two drastic examples of how dams are destroying livelihoods. The dams in Lesotho keep water from traveling downstream, leaving those areas parched. Fish that would travel down the Mekong River to spawn are trapped by the dams, starving people and ecosystems that depend on those fish. So if you ask the inhabitants of these two places, plus environmental groups including the National Park Service, there are too many dams on the world’s rivers.
The negative effects of dams on rivers have resulted in the removal of 145 dams in the United States between 1999 and 2004, plus the plan to remove the giant Elwha River structures in Washington.
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