Emilio Cogliani

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Dams illustrate the brilliance and arrogance of human ingenuity. They generate one sixth of the world’s electricity and irrigate one seventh of our food crops. They have flooded land areas the size of California, displaced a population the size of Germany’s, and turned freshwater into the ecosystem most threatened by species extinction. Below are 12 of the 57,000 large dams that have changed the face of our planet:

Hoover: the dam that gave us Las Vegas

The Hoover Dam was the world’s highest and most powerful dam when it was completed in 1936. It spurred the agricultural and industrial development of the US Southwest, and destroyed the Colorado River’s rich downstream fisheries. Climate change is greatly affecting the dam’s capacity to supply water and generate power.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the…

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