The World's Most Dangerous Dams

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Llewellyn King via,

Hydroelectric dams are a nifty way of producing a huge amount of power, but they do not last forever. This is a tale of two dams that will fail unless they are urgently repaired, and if they fail, catastrophic suffering and loss of life will be the result.

The first is the Mosul Dam, which stretches across the Tigris River in a valley north of Mosul, Iraq. As dams go, this one is a civil engineering horror. The dam was captured on Aug. 7 by the Islamic State, and retaken 10 days later by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with American air support.

Should the two-mile-wide dam fail, which is likely, Mosul would be wiped out and the damage would extend to Baghdad. Loss of life could reach 500,000, and millions could be deprived of water and power: an immense catastrophe piled on the daily pain of Iraq.

The second dam, in southern Africa on the Zambezi River, is the Kariba. This 55-year-old dam, by some measures, is the world’s second largest. It was a civil engineering masterpiece and has held up well, given the spotty maintenance by its owners – Zambia, on the north bank and Zimbabwe, on the south bank.

But the Kariba Dam is predicted to fail within three years unless it undergoes massive repair. If it does, surging water would rip a vast trench down the length of the Zambezi River on its route to the Indian Ocean. The wall of water would take out another giant dam, Cahora Bassa, in Mozambique.

Loss of life could reach 3.5 million, with untold damage to wildlife. South central Africa would lose 40 percent of its electric supply.

While the Mosul and Kariba dams share the same potential lethality, they are very different structures.

The Mosul Dam was a rush job, ordered by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s without regard to the engineering realities of the site. It is anchored in gypsum, which dissolves in water. Daily, leaks in the foundation have to be plugged with grout -- a mixture of cement and sand. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the Mosul Dam is fundamentally the wrong structure for the location, and called it the “most dangerous dam in the world.”

Even with careful tending, the Mosul Dam is in danger. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, many of the workers who have kept the dam operating fled when fighters from the Islamic State arrived on the scene. Only one dedicated manager is known to have stayed.

The United States has spent $33 million trying to stabilize the Mosul Dam, but the money, according an inspector general’s report, was largely wasted. Now, the U.S. bombing campaign is threatening to further destabilize an already fragile structure.

Apart from general maintenance issues, the Kariba Dam’s problems are a little simpler. When the dam was built between 1955 and 1959, the plan was to control the river’s flow though six sluice gates set in the wall. The water travels through the sluices and empties into a plunge pool before flowing downstream.

The trouble is that the plunge pool has grown from an indentation in the riverbed to a vast 285-foot-deep crater. The water, which swirls around inside it with great force, is eroding the basalt rock on which the dam is anchored. In other words, the dam is eating itself alive. Engineers dare not open all the sluice gates at once – the last time they did was in 1966.

The necessary fix is a combination of blasting an enlarged plunge pool so the water moves along without creating a whirlpool, and injecting grout -- in the form of underwater concrete -- to shore up the foundation.

A consortium of the World Bank, the European Union and the African Development Bank this month agreed to provide $250 million to save Kariba. Engineers say the work must be done in the next three years or it will be too late.

If Zimbabwe and Zambia can agree on the contracts, work should begin next year. But in that part of the world, the only thing that moves fast is the Zambezi River.

Considering the chaos that has befallen Iraq, the outlook for the Mosul Dam is anyone’s guess.

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wallstreetaposteriori's picture

Daaaamnnnn.. (pun intended)

Pool Shark's picture



Dam failure not a problem in California.

We have no water...


Raymond K Hessel's picture

Actually, I see a solution for the West on Iraq in the Mosul Dam.

Pool Shark's picture




Thanks for pointing out new strategic targets for Obama's air strikes...


wee-weed up's picture

When Mosul Dam fails ... the gift of Sadaam to his people just keeps on giving... still killing and murdering them even from his grave.

Pool Shark's picture



As for fixing that dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe:

"...$250 million to save Kariba."

No problem, this should do it:

$16.95 US should easily cover all repairs in perpetuity...


AssFire's picture

Zambia, on the north bank and Zimbabwe, on the south bank

Checkmate, you lose dam.

SafelyGraze's picture

"Loss of life could reach 3.5 million. South central Africa would lose 40 percent of its electric supply."

it's okay as long as you can quantify what has been lost or destroyed or confiscated or whatever

for example, if the treasury takes 100 oz of your metal, they issue you a Metal Certificate which attests that you no longer have the 100 oz

this Certificate is a fantastic asset

if you are a central bank, you can use it as collateral to borrow vast sums

likewise for the certificate of loss of life or electricity or land or dams in your country

as long as the certificate clearly states a numerical value of the loss, that certificate becomes a fantastic asset for your country to use as it borrows its way into prosperity


kaiserhoff's picture

You really understand.

Why does that scare the bejeezes out of me?

knukles's picture

Quite a roll you're on tonight, kaiser :)

12ToothAssassin's picture

So the flood strips away the people currently claiming the natural resources. How is this negative to US interests? Sounds like free resources to me but what do I know?

Freddie's picture

The picture of that African dam is scary because you just know that one is going to fail.   Very big big dam in third world country with insane levels of poverty thanks to Mugabe or Obama 1.0. 

wee-weed up's picture

My "junkers" above must be from Tikrit.

Antifaschistische's picture

This is not a problem KBR can't fix for $10B.

Mercuryquicksilver's picture

Myopic statement. No doubt Hussien was a real SOB for those on his bad side, but under his iron fist the Iraqi literacy rose from 35% to 98% and he brought running water and electricity to nearly everyone. In general, the Iraqi people enjoyed an improved quality of life.... unless you were one of the tortured and murdered. Outliers suppose.

Overfed's picture

I think you would be hard pressed to find an Iraqi who wasn't better off before being liberated with bombs of freedom and democracy. Libyans, too.

wee-weed up's picture

Damn, you would have LOVED Stalin.

BlindMonkey's picture

He is right. Supersonic democracy isn't solving any problems globally.

Except in Lybia. It worked rely well there. /s

fishmonger's picture

Lybia, Libya or Labia... "At this point, what difference does it make!?"

Four chan's picture

iraq deserves and needs stalin.

Sedaeng's picture

Given how much we know to be BS from the MSM no a days.  How much of what was stated to us about Saddam was overly exaggerated or made up altogether?  Govt fabricates victims now or worse, is actually the ones doing the killing.

Now I say all this because I was in Iraq from 2004-2007.  I worked with about 2 dozen local nationals and we talked politics. Especially the older guys (40-50s).  Very interesting stories were shared, but mostly, they kept asking why we thought Saddam was so bad.  They did not seem to think he was a bad guy.  None of them could validate any of the stuff my Govt sold to me hook line and sinker.

Also, I was experiencing what was going on on the ground.  I was also paying attention to the news back home... the stories rarely came close to what was actually being experienced.

This was the stage of my life where I began to question everything that I was ever taught...

12ToothAssassin's picture

Remember the dead Iraqi babies (that actually never happened)!

More_sellers_than_buyers's picture

oh please ... he was a third world dictator.  Fucking scum...the problem was not getting rid of saddam, the problem was what comes after....these people have been living lives of horror for thousands of years.  There was no way for it to function after unless we actually made it a colony

TruthHunter's picture

 "No doubt Hussien was a real SOB"  

But that's what it takes to keep uncivilised people under control.


J S Bach's picture

If Lake Mead doesn't start filling up again, the Hoover Dam may soon dry up and crumble away, too.

BlindMonkey's picture

Future anthropologists will go there and say: "Dam! This used to be fillies with water? Incredible!"

WOAR's picture

"Fillies with water you say? Where are the seaponies?"


Dr. Engali's picture

You do have a flood of immigrants flowing into your state.

Malachi Constant's picture

Cheer up, you had a very respectable dam failure once:

And there is some hope for the future: Hollywood Reservoir dam is based on the same project. It is covered with cheerful greenery to prevent unwelcome associations.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Been there. Done that. Bought the T-Shirt. Thanks Billy Mulholland

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Show me a sizable dam, and I'll show you a target for a tactical nuke.

A small thing can make the lives of millions very miserable.

A Nanny Moose's picture

No nukes needed. Just some Quagga Muscles, and other "invasive" species.


Frankly, I find dental dams to be quite safe. 

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Q: What did the French Dam Builders say when they finished their job?

A: Eau Reservoir.

kchrisc's picture

See, not just direct welfare that makes people dependent on the criminal syndicate that is government.

An American, not US subject.


"Comical is that while some wail over EBT zombies, they are themselves water and crop subsidy zombies."

stant's picture

You forgetting wolfcreek

kaiserhoff's picture

god loves the colored pepo with large souls (and arses).

We are assured he will provide all the chewing gum, band aids, and used rubbers needed for this trifling matter.

   - United Nations Privy Council, (and Latrine Council Too)


Harbanger's picture

There is no favor in the Lords eyes.

Proverbs 6:16-19New International Version (NIV)

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

kaiserhoff's picture

Why are you still bustin' on Ferguson?:)

Pure Evil's picture

Dam, that's some funny shit.

kaiserhoff's picture

Well, a lot of it applies, if you've had a drink or three:),

but I love the maff.  Is it six and/or seven things?

The bible is always hilarious where it shouldn't be.


Harbanger's picture

?? I think you get my point.  Tell your ego to go fuck itself before it fucks you, that's your achilles heel.  You are not special, not even average for that matter, you only think you are.  If you don't get my point I will happily make you understand.

knukles's picture

Oh for Pete's sakes, he's just having fun. 

Tall Tom's picture

He who laughs last laughs best.


I have a picture on my wall that is a representation of Jesus...laughing.


At times I think that Jesus is just laughing with me.


But most of the time I look at it and think that Jesus is laughing at me.


My doom is set as I am not deserving.


He will be laughing at me, in the end, as I perish in the Lake of Fire.