To dam or not to dam?
The World Bank, once an enthusiastic supporter of dam building, has decreased its involvement in new dam projects significantly over the last 35 years as current structures become increasingly problematic. Author Jacques Leslie visited heavily dammed areas in India, southern Africa and southeast Australia to investigate. Leslie chronicles his experiences in Deep Water (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $25), a firsthand account of how major dam projects have affected people and the environment. Leslie is careful to present both sides, and leaves room to laud some of the achievements these projects have earned. However, when everything is laid on the table, people were displaced, species were driven to overpopulation or extinction, and diseases and famines ensued.
"Humans believed they could vanquish nature," Leslie declares, "and found themselves vanquished instead." Leslie's narrative introduces some engaging characters in the world of dams, lending his book a page-turning quality.