Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and by Christopher Sneddon

By Christopher Sneddon

Water could seem harmless, yet as a common necessity, it necessarily intersects with politics by way of acquisition, keep watch over, and linked applied sciences. whereas we all know greatly concerning the socioecological expenses and advantages of contemporary dams, we all know a ways much less approximately their political origins and ramifications. In Concrete Revolution, Christopher Sneddon deals a corrective: a compelling old account of the united states Bureau of Reclamation’s contributions to block know-how, chilly battle politics, and the social and environmental adversity perpetuated by way of the USA executive in its pursuit of monetary development and geopolitical power.

Founded in 1902, the Bureau grew to become enmeshed within the US country Department’s push for geopolitical strength following global struggle II, a reaction to the Soviet Union’s expanding international sway. through delivering technical and water source administration recommendation to the world’s underdeveloped areas, the Bureau discovered that it may possibly not just offer them with monetary assistance and the U.S. with funding possibilities, but in addition forge alliances and shore up a country’s international status within the face of burgeoning communist impression. Drawing on a few foreign case studies—from the Bureau’s early forays into in another country improvement and the release of its international actions place of work in 1950 to the Blue Nile research in Ethiopia—Concrete Revolution deals insights into this historical damming increase, with very important implications for the current. If, Sneddon argues, we will be able to comprehend dams as either technical and political gadgets instead of tools of neutral technology, we will greater perform present debates approximately huge dams and river basin making plans.

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Extra info for Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation

Sample text

In other words, both were the products of a very specific set of historical conditions. 67 Hoover was the first dam to illustrate that dam building on a massive scale was possible, in an engineering sense, and that it could provide an enormous supply of electricity. In several senses, the Hoover Dam is representative of the type of technological knowledge that revolutionized dam building in the twentieth century. , concrete) used in its construction, the techniques required to create a unitary impoundment—set the stage for a triumphalist period of global dam building.

Needless to say, these locales are characterized by startlingly diverse historical-geographical conditions, and the similarity of the Bureau’s approach in each place is a testament to the universalizing tendencies of technical assistance and water resource development as conceived within US foreign policy aims. An example from a team that worked in Nicaragua in 1951 (identified as “moderate” involvement in my illustration) offers a fairly typical window into the specific activities carried out in many of their overseas programs: The mission spent five weeks in Nicaragua in the early part of the annual rainy season, assembling and reviewing pertinent reports, maps, and unassembled information and making such field investigations of suggested projects as limitations of time and difficulties of travel would permit.

Still, Savage tackled his assignment regarding the Yangtze Gorge Dam with characteristic innovation and energy, and his activities included numerous field visits to the proposed site of the dam (fig. 2). This stretch of the Yangtze, situated near the city of Ichang in the province of Hubei, had long been seen by Chinese leaders as a resource of tremendous development potential. As early as 1919 Sun Yat-Sen had identified this part of the Yangtze as an ideal site for a dam that could provide both hydroelectricity and flood control.

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