Sustainability assessment of dams

Abstract

Better management of water resources, by dam construction, is crucial for human survival due to climate change and water scarcity. With the growing demand for fresh water in modern societies, the movement of the large dams’ construction started, and global river systems have been increasingly altered by dams for water and energy needs. Dams have played an important role for human development for centuries, but in recent decades dams projects have become mired in controversy. Critics of dams believe that benefits have been grossly overstated, while the social and environmental costs have been largely ignored. Therefore, the aim of this research is to conduct a sustainability assessment of dams’ impacts to offer insights for construction of dams and their management. We used analytical hierarchy processing to address the question of socio-ecological sustainability impacts of an illustrative dam, Raees-Ali Delvari Dam (RADD), under climate change condition. The results showed that among the three pillars of sustainability, economic dimension of RADD was the most important. The criteria analysis indicated that experts perceived the negative factors (weakness and threats) to be relatively more important in sustainability of the dam than positive factors (strengths and opportunities). Environmental threats such as climate change can diminish the positive impacts and increase the environmental, social and economic weaknesses of the dam. Farmers in benefited and less-benefited regions had conflicting views regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the RADD. Unequal distribution of benefits among farmers of different regions is a major source of conflict and concern in sustainable management of dams. The results were used to develop a key dams’ sustainability assessment checklist for management and building of new dams.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Shiraz University, because this research was supported by grant from Shiraz University.

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Correspondence to Shobeir Karami.

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Karami, S., Karami, E. Sustainability assessment of dams. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 2919–2940 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00326-3

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Keywords

  • Dam’s sustainability
  • AHP–SWOT
  • Key dams’ sustainability assessment checklist
  • Raees-Ali Delvari Dam