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UN University releases report on Ageing Dams in the World

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Ageing-dams-in-India,-U.SUnited Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH)  released a report called ‘Ageing Water Storage Infrastructure: An Emerging Global Risk’, the report states that ageing of large dams is an emerging Global Development issue as they pose threats to human safety & environment.

  • Globally, around 10,000 more dams have reached or exceeded the ‘alert’ age limit of 50 years & many dams are expected to approach 100 years soon.
  • Around 32, 716 large dams (55% of World) are situated in only 4 Asian Countries – China, India, Japan & South Korea, majority of these dams are set to reach the limit of 50-year threshold.
  • In India, around 1, 115 large dams are set to reach the ~50 years mark by 2025.
  • The report consists of case studies on decommissioning & ageing of dams from the United States, France, Canada, India, Japan, and Zambia & Zimbabwe.
  • Duminda Perera, Vladimir Smakhtin, Spencer Williams, Taylor North, Allen Curry were the authors of the report.


  • It is a summary of the present state of knowledge on the ageing of large dams in the world.
  • It is originally intended for Governments and agencies which are responsible for planning, managing & implementing water infrastructure developments.

ii.Report  about Global Dams:

  • About 93% of World’s largest dams are located in 25 nations.
  • The construction of large dams has been declining steadily in the last 40 years.
  • Reasons causing Dam Decommissioning across the world are public safety, rising maintenance costs, reservoir sedimentation & restoration of the natural river ecosystem.
  • Average life expectancy of a dam is around 50 years
  • Some sources indicate that an average life expectancy of a dam is 50 years

iii.Regarding India

  • In India, around 4, 250 large dams will be more than 50-years old in 2050 & 64 large dams will be more than 150-years old in 2050.
  • The report also states that India’s current dam construction rate is one of the world’s highest.

Case study on Kerala’s Mullaperiyar Dam:

The Mullaperiyar dam was built on the river of Periyar in 1895.

  • The dam is situated in a seismically active area (prone to earthquakes) and is showing signs of failure & is facing the risk of failure.
  • If at all, any failure occurs  in the dam around 3.5 million people will be affected by it.

Click here to read the full report

About United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment & Health (UNU-INWEH):
INWEH is one of the United Nations University (UNU) institutes, an academic arm of the UN.

Director – Vladimir Smakhtin
Location – Hamilton, Canada