While we are pondering about how to manage our floods within city, China is setting up/set up various projects across the Yellow River and digitally monitoring the flood level, pollution, sedimentation and other aspects across the total river and ensuring that the flow of water is uniform or atleast as per the expectation.
The level of automation and digitization has apparently allowed better flow through the Yellow River, and nowadays the Yellow River is called as the digital River!!
But, China in its ambition to control vast resources and in due course control nature may yield results un fathomed ever. Through its South-North water transmission corridor, it is planning to tap into the precious waters of the Tibetan Peninsula (In 2008, I wrote a blog stating China's ambition to Tibet's waters..!!!). The scale of the project leaves too many questions un-answered.
I was just wondering about the planning that has to go into executing projects of this scale.
a) As I mentioned earlier, Three Gorges is having to deal with huge sedimentation, and it may have to eventually incur huge costs similar to Sanmenxia Dam, whose potential is drastically reduced due to sedimentation.
b) As every one knows, the Himalayas are the most earth quake prone regions in the world. Hence, the river bed that originates from these regions. In an earthquake during the early parts of previous century, a huge earthquake in Assam lead to the increase of the Brahmaputra basin by as high as 22 cms. This has led to major devastation across the region.
Remember the Kosi river in Bihar, which changed its course as recently as 2008-09. While this is not due to earth quakes, but the inherent nature of rivers in the Himalayan and Tibetan regions make them highly prone to changes.
China, recently saw two major earthquakes, one in Sichuan region which moved a total mountain and the other in the same proximity leading to major flash floods and killing scores of people. Now, the planned corridor SOuth-North water diversion project goes through the Sichuan region.
Imagine $65 bn are spent on trying to divert water from rivers, and the earth quake leads to the change in course of the rivers. The total effort is drained and at the same time, the impact in itself becomes un-measurable. Since it is China, things may be kept under closed wraps and the impact would be shown as minimal, as is the case with the recent droughts across the Central Provinces.
While, it is good and appreciable to plan for great engineering marvels, the ecological and the environmental impact remain un-certain.
During the previous century big hydro dams were considered to be the virtues of development. Not any more. For all the big projects planned, since the damage is calculated within the area of impact, the damage is quantified. But if the ecological damage is perceived from a macro perspective, the damage done by many of these projects render them un-viable and dangerous.
The solution, probably lies in better planning of the demand centers. Ensure development happens surrounding the river beds as used to be the case in earlier civilizations. Also, a group of small hydro projects are more capable of handling the situation better than a single large project. There by even the environmental impact is minimized. Hopefully!!