The giant dams of today are the modern Pyramids, colossally expensive edifices that generate monumental amounts of electricity, irrigated water, and environmental and social disaster.
With Deep Water, Jacques Leslie offers a searching account of the current crisis over dams and the world's water. An emerging master of long-form reportage, Leslie makes the crisis vivid through the stories of three distinctive figures: Medha Patkar, an Indian activist who opposes a dam that will displace thousands of people in western India; Thayer Scudder, an American anthropologist who studies the effects of giant dams on the peoples of southern Africa; and Don Blackmore, an Australian water manager who struggles to reverse the effects of drought so as to allow Australia to continue its march to California-like prosperity.
Taking the reader to the sites of controversial dams, Leslie shows why dams are at once the hope of developing nations and a blight on their people and landscape. Deep Water is an incisive, beautifully written, and deeply disquieting report on a conflict that threatens to divide the world in the coming years.
Bhutan’s environmental policies are among the world’s most advanced, yet the saga shows that no one is exempt from climate changes’ depredations. For four summers the Bhutanese government sent hundreds of workers on a ten-day journey, beyond 17,000 feet, and over one of the toughest trekking trails in the world to reach a lake in imminent danger of collapse; then the workers stood in ice water while wielding nothing but hand tools to carve an alternate channel for the lake’s water. Along the way, workers succumbed to altitude sickness and lost toes to frostbite, and the team doctor struggled to carry out an heroic rescue.
Leslie’s last book, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for its “elegant, beautiful prose.” A master of narrative nonfiction, he tells the story with grace and precision.