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By Stephen Currie

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Pottinger is a writer and editor who is associated with the advocacy group International Rivers. “ Africa’s hydropower resources have the potential to significantly contribute to solving the region’s power problems. The resource is readily available and produces cheaper and cleaner electricity than other traditional resources such as coal and oil. ” —Moses Duma, “Hydropower: Africa’s Solution to the Electricity Crisis,” June 2, 2009. com. Duma is a research analyst who studies the energy industry.

The concern about large dams, though, is not so much based on the damage caused by earlier disasters as on the possibility of catastrophe in the future. Much of the uneasiness today focuses on the world’s largest dams, perhaps most notably China’s Three Gorges. This dam is of concern not only because of its enormous size, but because of potential problems with where it was constructed. In order to maximize the energy production of the dam, for example, engineers sited it in an area prone to earthquakes and landslides—either of which could compromise the dam and cause it to fail.

The line graph shows the steady increase in carbon dioxide emissions from the late 1950s to 2010. Scientific evidence indicates that high carbon dioxide levels are associated with climate change. org, “Earth’s CO2 Home Page,” March 2010. org. 48 • Tapping a river for hydroelectricity can change the temperature and oxygen content of the water, which may present a problem for fish and other life forms. • Each year, an average of 60 hydroelectric dams in China fail, cutting electric service and sending millions of gallons of water unexpectedly downstream.

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Hydropower by Stephen Currie

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