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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Three new water books (2: Tvedt)

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waterThe second book that caught my eye in the new acquisitions at Kwantlen is called A Journey in the Future of Water, by Norwegian water expert Terje Tvedt. If Everard’s book is focussed on big dams, Tvedt’s is broader in scope and more of a travelogue than an essay; it wanders through some of the more interesting spots that illustrate global water resources management.

For instance, Tvedt takes us to Brazil, where the world’s largest aquifer, the Guarani reservoir that partially lies under the Pantanal wetlands, covers an area of nearly two million square kilometers and holds 37,000 cubic kilometers worth of fresh water. Should this immense resource be developed, especially given the dire drought currently gripping Brazil? What would this mean for the Pantanal, the largest wetland wilderness in the world?

Tvedt also describes the Egypt’s Toshka project, a huge irrigation scheme to bring Lake Nasser water to a valley 300 kilometers away in the Sahara, and create from scratch a new irrigated farming community of over 2300 square kilometers. The author, a Nile watershed specialist, also describes the various Nile dams upstream of Egypt. There is this idea that Egypt would go to war to prevent upstream nations from “stealing” its waters, but this is belied by the fact that there are several large dams already built. The largest is Sudan’s Merowe dam near the near 4th cataract; a 1250 MW, 9km long, and 67 meters high dam completed in 2009, it’s 174 km long reservoir displaced 60,000 people. Ethiopia has also already harnessed the Blue Nile with the smaller Tis Abay and Tezeke Gorge Dams. Curiously, there is no mention of the proposed Millennium Dam, a giant project rated to 5250 MW; this project, expected to be complete by 2017, is the one that former Egyptian President Morsi threatened Ethiopia with war if the project was completed.

Tvedt also describes the potential for dams in Nepal; hydroelectricity could realistically generate 42000 MW, and the reservoir potential is such that the water flowing down to India could be increased four-fold during the dry season, potentially saving the health of the Ganges. As with the Nile, though, there is a curious absence of critical appraisal – would that be good? damaging? sustainable? The reader is left a bit hungry for comment. But in one way, this may be a strength of the book; instead of passing judgment, the author merely describes, sometimes with what may be a bit of unstated humour. For instance, one chapter describes how Greenlanders welcome for climate change: they plan to capture glacier melt in hydroelectric dams, and either export electricity to Europe or invite aluminum smelters (the first such dam has already been built at Tasiilaq).

But for all that, the breadth of the topic is spectacular enough that a documentary series has been adapted from the book; trailers can be seen here and here.

Tvedt, Terje 2014. A journey in the future of water. London: Tauris.

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Written by enviropaul

February 15, 2015 at 11:57 am

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