Dams During The Progressive Era

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Pre 1950s Large dams, as we know them today, were a product of the Progressive Era, a period of intense social and political reform in the United States that flourished from the 1890s to the 1920s. The Progressives sought to create a better and just society by checking political corruption and reigning in monopolies through anti-trust laws. More importantly, they also believed that the key to achieving these goals was efficiency in all spheres of political and public life realized through the ideas and instruments of modern science and technology. In broad terms, the champions of this new philosophy favoured an urban-industrial society, believed that it was the duty of an elected government to bring about reform in economic and social…show more content…
Apart from the fear of losing their traditional turf, the Corps had good reason to be skeptical about the multiple use idea. For, hydroelectric power had yet to compete with other forms of energy in the open market; railroads were giving river transportation a run for its money; and since the idea was still on paper, people had only a vague sense about its economic viability. The large dam controversy also divided the conservationists into opposing camps. Nature enthusiasts like John Muir campaigned against the idea because it entailed loss of America’s pristine wildernesses. Whereas foresters like Pinchot believed that large dams would be far more efficient and thereby do far less environmental damage than a series of small single-purpose dams. It also resulted in strange alliances, like between the private dam entrepreneurs, who felt threatened by the Federal government into dam construction, and nature lovers like Muir. Post…show more content…
However, and not surprisingly, industrialists who wanted West Germany to be on the side of the Portuguese and South Africans in their struggle against Communist-backed “rebels” backed his support for the dam. Thanks to the Cahora Bassa project, the Federal Republic got more deeply embroiled in politics of decolonization. After Cahora Bassa, it became very difficult for West Germany to do business with the apartheid rule in South Africa. However, geopolitics took a different turn when Mozambique became free nation in 1975, a year after the dam’s completion. Expectedly, South Africa, one time partner and co-beneficiary, began instigating rebels in the former colony who, among other attacks, sabotaged the dam and power lines. Meanwhile, in 1976, West Germany entered into a joint venture in working the Rössing Uranium Mine in South Africa. Jason Verber, Stopping the River without Stemming the Tide: West Germany, the Cahora Bassa Dam, and Decolonization (Mozambique), Workshop: "Big Dams: Investigating their Temporal and Spatial Politics in Africa, the Middle East and Asia", Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, 1 June 2012 Aswan

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