Synopses & Reviews
"If the wars of the last century were fought over oil, the wars of this century will be fought over water." -Ismail Serageldin, The World Bank
The giant dams of today are the modern Pyramids, colossally expensive edifices that generate monumental amounts of electricity, irrigated water, and environmental and social disaster.
With Deep Water, Jacques Leslie offers a searching account of the current crisis over dams and the world's water. An emerging master of long-form reportage, Leslie makes the crisis vivid through the stories of three distinctive figures: Medha Patkar, an Indian activist who opposes a dam that will displace thousands of people in western India; Thayer Scudder, an American anthropologist who studies the effects of giant dams on the peoples of southern Africa; and Don Blackmore, an Australian water manager who struggles to reverse the effects of drought so as to allow Australia to continue its march to California-like prosperity.
Taking the reader to the sites of controversial dams, Leslie shows why dams are at once the hope of developing nations and a blight on their people and landscape. Deep Water is an incisive, beautifully written, and deeply disquieting report on a conflict that threatens to divide the world in the coming years.
"This worthy but difficult book looks at large dams and their consequences through the eyes of three members of the 1990s' World Commission on Dams. Indian activist Medha Patkar planned to drown herself to protest the Sardar Sarovar dam's displacement of several hundred thousand people. Thayer Scudder, a dam resettlement expert and consultant to the World Bank, stopped a dam that would have destroyed Botswana's Okavango Delta. Don Blackmore, in Australia, where dams are a virtual necessity, has to regulate 'the dozens of variables that affect the health of a river basin' during an acute drought. Leslie's (The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia) intent was to 'see dams whole,' and he conveys the complex, disheartening issues surrounding them. Whether the reader can see dams whole is another question. Leslie is capable of both punchy and lyrical writing. But with the flood of detail, from the mechanics of dam financing to the water sources for African villages, the book becomes a hard slog. A draft of this unquestionably informative and eye-opening book won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, but it will need a devoted reader to get the last drop of good out of it. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Fascinating . . . Jacques Leslie is a fine writer. . . . No other book presents this issue to a lay reader so thoroughly and so persuasively."--The Seattle Times
"Leslie delivers scene and mood with the economy and precision of a good novelist. His profiles are so well observed one forgets that the characters have not sprung from his own imagination."--Columbia Journalism Review
"Leslie's edgy, potent, and in-depth inquiry unveils the drastic, unintentional consequences of dams and exposes yet more evidence of the catastrophic results of allowing greed and politics to trump science and justice."--Booklist
"Leslie has written a volume that is heir, both in organization and in power, to Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee's classic profile of David Brower and his fight against dam-nation. . . . Superb."--Bill McKibben, OnEarth magazine "If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water."--Ismail Serageldin, former Vice President of the World Bank
Taking the reader to the sites of controversial dams, Leslie shows why dams are at once the hope of developing nations and a blight on their people and landscape.
A Discover Magazine Top Science Book of the Year
A Northern California Book Award Finalist
There are more than 45,000 of them in the world. They have altered the speed of the planet's rotation, the tilt of its axis, and the shape of its gravitational field. They influence landscapes and societies. They are dams, and in Deep Water, Jacques Leslie offers an incisive, searching, and beautifully written account of the emerging crisis over dams and the world's water. Reporting in the tradition of John McPhee and Peter Matthiessen, Leslie examines the crisis through the lives of three people: Medha Patkar, the world's foremost anti-dam activist; Thayer Scudder, an American anthropologist; and Don Blackmore, an Australian water manager. In each of these engrossing portraits, Leslie shows how dams seduce national leaders with seeming bounties of water and power but end up producing blights on the citizenry and landscape. Deep Water is an eloquent and important book about the water crisis and a startling look at the fate of our planet.
About the Author
Jacques Leslie's writing has won numerous awards, including the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for Deep Water and the Sigma Delta Chi Foreign Correspondence Award for his reporting during the Vietnam War. He is the author of The Mark: A War Correspondent's Memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia. He lives in Mill Valley, California.