Curiosities / International / News Commentary / Politics / Science / Technology

The Power of Mother Nature—As a Weapon of War?

Mosul damWe’re aware of dramatic decisions made by the government of China with regard to developing power resources, alternating courses of damming and flooding of thousands of villages in the Yangtze River Valley, at tremendous cost to livelihood and of course archaeological treasures.  However, this project was staged, strategically planned and populations were relocated.  This was a case of national development strategy.   Now, here comes the ISIS military force gaining power in Iraq, seeking to redraw the map of the Middle East and as of a few days ago potentially in charge of the 2-mile wide Mosul dam–which turns out to be possibly the most powerful dam in the world.

Would we ever consider a dam a weapon of war?  I have to admit the thought never occurred to me.  One might imagine toxicity scenarios, but somehow opening a dam’s floodgates as a matter of military strategy never crossed my mind.  Who knew how vulnerable it was?  Well, evidently–apart from the political battle going on– the U.S. has known for decades how vulnerable this dam is literally–foundationally. Regular engineering assessments since 2007 forecast catastrophic losses in failure scenarios which are only forestalled through regular maintenance of an absurd pour, patch and hope nature.  We’re not talking the New Orleans basin here…. rather an estimated 68ft high flood wave covering first the city of Mosul and beyond toward Baghdad.

I found this article about the dam on Google News today—The implications for loss of life and urban infrastructure are staggering.   We’ve seen the Taliban desecrate and destroy the Bamiyan statues and we know ISIS has been crucifying and otherwise executing anyone perceived as a threat to their mission of territorial conquest.

Sabotaging the dam or the sheer ignorant negligence of its vulnerable structure would be an act of terror of staggering proportion.    In any case, it sounds like this dam is a ticking time bomb regardless that no one can afford to fix.  Renovation would have to start at remediating the very foundation and would be one awesome USAID infrastructure project–but there are a list of others far smaller which we’ve botched or abandoned.

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