Increasing Water Security: Large Scale Water Management Projects Essay
Using named examples, assess the contribution of large scale water management projects in increasing water security. 15 Water security means having access to sufficient, safe, clean and affordable water. Theoretically, the world’s poorer countries are the most water insecure, suffering from both physical and economic water scarcity. One solution to tackle water insecurity is through large scale water projects for example the Three Gorges project in China, the South-North transfer project also in China and the restoration of the Aral Sea.
However there is much controversy over whether these schemes are actually sustainable and therefore beneficial in the long run. The Three Gorges da project in China blocks the Yangtze River; it cost $50 billion just for the construction, and was fully operational on the 4th of July 2012. This cost doesn’t account for the environmental and social costs that also came with the scheme. The dam drains 1. 8million km2 and will supply Shanghai’s population of 13 million along with Chongqing’s population of 3 million with sufficient supplies of water.
Not only has it provided people with water but it’s also the worlds’ largest hydroelectric scheme generating 18000MW of electricity, instead of using 50 million tonnes of coal each year. As well as this, it is seen as a flood protection and can save many lives and cut financial costs created by flood damage. When the operation is looked at from this perspective, it is seen to be a success and suggests that large scale projects increase water security, however when analysed from a different view, many problems being to arise.
An example of these costs are factors such as the dammed waters drowned 100,000 hectares of arable land, along with 13 cities, many smaller settlement and 13 factories. 1. 9 million people have been displaced from their homes and land because of reasons. As well as social impacts, many environmental issues were raised such as ecological impacts on fisheries, biodiversity and habitats, together with pollution as the abandoned mines and factories are flooded. This puts added pressure on the local environment of the dam.
Although the many benefits are significant in future water security, the question has to be asked whether the benefits outweigh the costs and whether the decision to invest the huge sums of money into projects like this is the right one. Similarly, a different project in China is experiencing similar opinions as again there benefits come with such a high cost. The South-North project is designed to transfer water from the water abundant south to the less water rich north. This gigantic diversion began in 2003 and is estimated to take approximately 50 years to complete, and cost $62 billion.
The three canals which link the four major rivers in the country are predicted to transfer 44. 8 billion m3 of water per year. Water conservation, improved irrigation, pollution treatment and environmental protection are included in the scheme however there are arguments saying there are uncertainties and risks accompanying the project. For example the Yangtze River is already at alarmingly high levels of pollution therefore the significant ecological and environmental impacts along the river is bound to improve the water quality.
Also, the untreated industrial waste water is being mixed with agricultural run-off containing fertilisers, increasing the risk of eutrophication and as a result of this, decreasing the availability of clean fresh water and overall therefore going against the main intended plan which is to improve water security. Finally, the restoration of the Aral Sea comes at a cost of $126 million, which was agreed to be loaned from the World Bank, straight away putting the countries involved under economic pressure before the scheme has even been successful.
This money is being used to build a second dam, after the successful $68 million dam that split the sea into two and already filling the northern sea up. Although this has seen fishermen’s business improve along with returning rain, the problem on the Uzbekistan border is yet to be solved with the southern sea still shrinking. The economy of Uzbekistan is struggling to fix this problem as their economy heavily depends of cash crops which are not being produced due to the lack of water and irrigation of cotton fields.
An additional problem for Uzbekistan is that their headwaters are controlled by other countries. This problem is exacerbated by the part of the world they’re in and any change could easily trigger conflict from neighbouring countries. To conclude, although large water management schemes due in some cases increase water security for the intended target destination, there are many other factors which need to be considered deeply to evaluate whether the economic costs as well as the environmental and social costs are worth sacrificing for what the project will do.