Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Countries are building dams at an amazing pace right now'

'Countries are building dams at an amazing pace right now'
By Angela Yeager OSU News & Communications
July 20, 2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. � A new tool to help policy makers better assess the
costs and benefits of building dams � the first tool of its kind � could
change the way nations decide to develop hydro-electric power.

The Integrative Dam Assessment Modeling tool, or IDAM, uses an
interdisciplinary approach to simultaneously evaluate the distribution
of biophysical, socio-economic and geopolitical impacts of dams,
according to one of the model�s creators, Bryan Tilt, an associate
professor of anthropology at Oregon State University.

The model was designed as a decision-support tool that policy makers can
use to understand holistically the impacts, costs and benefits of
building a dam in any area.

On July 27, researchers at Oregon State University who developed the
model will present the tool in Washington, D.C., to a group of
policy-makers, government agencies and environmental organizations from
the United States, China and Southeast Asia.

The dam assessment tool measures the costs associated with a proposed
dam development project and also measures the possible benefits. Each of
the diagrams in the tool consists of 27 individual indicators of the
effects of dam construction, divided into socioeconomic, geopolitical
and biophysical themes.

For instance, factors such as habitat restoration costs can be weighed,
along with loss of income to local people and access to clean drinking

�When you put up a dam, it affects whole ecosystems and whole
communities,� Tilt said. �No other measurement tool can allow for so
many variables, and allow the user to weigh what factors they view as
most important.�

Tilt said the impetus for this dam modeling project happened in 2000,
when the World Commission on Dams called for more equitable and
sustainable decision-making with respect to large dams.

In 2007, the National Science Foundation funded the research by OSU and
its collaborators to develop and test this dam assessment tool.

Numerous studies modeling real dams in China helped the researchers
refine and perfect the tool, which they believe will help policy-makers
make more informed decisions about building dams.

�The fact is that China and African, Southeast Asian and Latin American
countries are building dams at an amazing pace right now,� Tilt said.
�There is no denying that they are going to continue to build them for
the near future. So how can we help them to do it better, more
sustainably, and mitigate any damage as much as possible?�

Desiree Tullos, an associate professor in the Department of Biological &
Ecological Engineering at OSU and the project�s lead researcher, along
with Aaron Wolf, professor of geosciences at OSU, will be at the meeting
in Washington, D.C., along with Tilt.

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