Exploring The Viability of Dams is Key to Malaysian Water Resources Development of the Future
It is said tluit civilization began and prospered when humans could control water; and that same civilization declined and vanished when that control is lost. Dams and other river flow barriers were built to harness and control water in the early days of civilisation in order to secure the benefits for human basic needs and comfort. Centuries later, more dams were built to cater for increasing population, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. But it is really in the past two centuries that many large-sized dams have been built to satisfy a wider range of development demands — hydropower, treated water supply, irrigation, flood control and environmental needs.
Towards the second half of the last century, society came to realise that dams can cause significant negative social and environmental impacts that could outweigh the original economic benefits. Opponents of dams protest vehemently world-wide against the development of more dams whilst proponents are convinced tluit the y are a necessary feature to support growth and prosperity. It is these contradicting beliefs in mind tluit the public must be engaged to facilitate a better understanding of the views of both the proponents and the opponents of dam development before deciding on a long-term strateg y. In the meantime, more effort may have to be made for water and energ y conservation strategies and to realize the potential applications of low impact and non-structural solutions that complement existing dams and defer new dam development to as far into the future as possible.
This paper aims to provoke a critical debate amongst engineers and the public to look at the longer term future ofdams in water resources development that could possibl y reduce the fundamental demand for services that dam provides. In other words, to try and answer the question “Why should a country rich in water, as Malaysia is, need to construct dams and even plan for more?”