Dams have been built by human beings for a long time to stop the flow of water and divert it for agriculture but these traditional dams were much smaller in size as compared to the large structures we see today. They were generally built out of stacked up rocks or mud across small streams and rivulets. Today’s dams are a marvel of modern engineering and are large cement walls with sluices and gates constructed across rivers for hydroelectric power generation or irrigation. The height of the dam depends on many factors like the surrounding topography, the proposed purpose of the dam, the flow of the river and rainfall pattern in the area. The taller the dam, the larger it’s reserve capacity. Here is a list of the 10 tallest dams in the world.
Tallest Dams In The World
1. Nurek Dam, Tajikistan
This dam built on the Vakhsh River in Tajikistan is the tallest dam in the world and has a height of 300 meters. It an earth-fill embankment type of dam and has one of the largest reservoirs in the country. The construction of this dam was done when Tajikistan was a part of the Soviet Union and took 19 years to build. The construction began in 1961 and the dam was finally completed in 1980.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Nurek_Dam_Vakhsh_River.jpg
2. Xiaowan Dam, China
Given the fast pace of infrastructural development in China, it is no surprise that China has one of the tallest dams in the world. This dam is built on the Mekong River and has a height of 292 meters. Since this dam is built at a great height, the main purpose of this dam is hydroelectric power generation and has a capacity of 4200 MW. It was constructed between 2002 and 2010 and is the world’s tallest arch dam.
Image Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/420/18721509639_d8a4dae04d_b.jpg
3. Grande Dixence Dam, Switzerland
This large dam in Switzerland has been built on the Dixence River in the Swiss Alps. It has a height of 285 meters and the main purpose of this dam is generating hydroelectric power. It has a capacity to power over 40,000 homes with the electricity it generates and distributes to four power plants. It is a concrete gravity dam and is the tallest gravity dam in the world.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Grande_Dixence_Dam.jpg
4. Inguri Dam, Georgia
Like the Xiaowan dam, this is also a Concrete Arch Dam and is the second tallest arch dam in the world with a height of 271.5 meters. It has been constructed across the Inguri Dam in the Georgian mountains north of a town called Jvari and forms a large reservoir that is used to distribute water and generate power. The construction of this dam began in 1961 and was completed in 1978.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/Enguri_Dam%2C_Georgia.jpg
5. Vajont Dam, Italy
This dam is located about 100 kilometres north of Venice and was completed in 1959. However, due to a fault in the design, the dam is currently geologically unstable and is not being used. In 1969, this dam also caused a landslide and flood killing 2,000 people and destroying several villages in the Piave valley. The height of this dam is 261.6 meters making it slightly taller than then next dam on the list.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Vajont_Dam_1960_panorama.jpg
6. Manuel Moreno Torres Dam, Mexico
This embankment dam has a height of 260 meters making it one of the tallest dams in the world. It has been built on the Grijalva River. It took six years to build this dam and it was built between 1974 and 1980. It was recently renovated and is currently the tallest dam in Mexico and is also the largest power station in the country. This dam is located in a geologically precarious area and had to be carefully designed to suit the surrounding conditions.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Mauvoisin_dam.jpg/1280px-Mauvoisin_dam.jpg
7. Nuozhadu Dam, China
This is the second dam in China and is also built on the Mekong River. It was commissioned in 2012 and has an annual power generation capacity of just less than 24,000 MW with a massive 320 square kilometre reservoir. Apart from generating power, this dam is also used for irrigating surrounding agricultural areas, flood control and navigation along the Mekong River. However, the large reservoir has submerged forested and cultivated land attracting criticism from the international community.
Image Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2826/8762468928_ef9632797e_b.jpg
8. Tehri Dam, India
The highest dam in India and one of the tallest in the world, the Their Dam has a height of 260.5 meters. It is built on the Bhagirathi River near Tehri village in Uttarakhand. This dam faced a lot of opposition from the local communities as well as environmental activists for the damage it caused to the surrounding forests and villages. The main purpose of this dam is power generation along with redistribution of water for irrigation and municipal use. It is a rock and earth-fill embankment dam and is one of the tallest of its kind.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Tehri_Dam_on_the_Bhagirathi%2C_Garhwal%2C_India.jpg
9. Mauvoisin Dam, Switzerland
This is the second tallest dam in Switzerland and has a height of 250 meters. Built across the Val de Bagnes River, the construction started in 1951 and it was completed in 1957 and the height was subsequently increased 1991. It has a large reservoir that is used for storing water during the winter. The dam is mainly used to generate hydroelectric power and provide electricity to the surrounding towns. The construction of this dam was technically challenging since it has to be built in the mountains.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c0/Mauvoisin.jpg
10. Laxiwa Dam, China
With a height of 250 meters, this is one of the ten tallest dams in the world. It has been built across the Yellow River in China in the Qinghai Province of northwest China. To construct this dam, the Yellow River was diverted and a large amount of Earth was excavated to build this dam which was completed in 5 years from 2004 to 2009. This is one of the many dams on the Yellow River and has caused significant disruptions in the natural flow patterns of the river as well as on the biodiversity that thrives in it.
Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ab/ThreeGorgesDam-China2009.jpg/1280px-ThreeGorgesDam-China2009.jpg
The first large dams began to be made around the 1900s and for a long time were hailed as the solution to all problems of water shortage, distribution, and use. But as an increasing number of dams are constructed, their drawbacks have become more apparent. Not only do dams cause a disruption in the natural drainage patterns of the river but also destroy the ecosystem that thrives on it. It causes excessive sedimentation and inundates hundreds of acres of arable land due to the reservoir. Any human settlements located in the area surrounding the proposed dam have to be evacuated and resettled which causes a major change in the lifestyle and culture of the people. Apart from this, there is a constant fear of flooding if the dam breaks and dams have become ready-made targets for terror attacks.