Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment

Jacques Leslie, Author
Jacques Leslie, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-28172-4
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-0-374-70785-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-42556-2
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This worthy but difficult book looks at large dams and their consequences through the eyes of three members of the 1990s' World Commission on Dams. Indian activist Medha Patkar planned to drown herself to protest the Sardar Sarovar dam's displacement of several hundred thousand people. Thayer Scudder, a dam resettlement expert and consultant to the World Bank, stopped a dam that would have destroyed Botswana's Okavango Delta. Don Blackmore, in Australia, where dams are a virtual necessity, has to regulate "the dozens of variables that affect the health of a river basin" during an acute drought. Leslie's (The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia ) intent was to "see dams whole," and he conveys the complex, disheartening issues surrounding them. Whether the reader can see dams whole is another question. Leslie is capable of both punchy and lyrical writing. But with the flood of detail, from the mechanics of dam financing to the water sources for African villages, the book becomes a hard slog. A draft of this unquestionably informative and eye-opening book won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, but it will need a devoted reader to get the last drop of good out of it. (Sept.)

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