As a dam broke in Eastern Germany yesterday, adding to the serious difficulties of the region, the German government has received anonymous letters warning of attacks to come on other dams and waterways: if true the results would be catastrophic, and the possibility of copycat action spreading to other countries would be likely. Along with targeting transport, the water network must be an easy way to create maximum damage and thence publicity for those with such an agenda.
For years now I have wondered about the safety of our reservoirs and dams – the man-made structures that provide our water and control the waters of nature for our needs and purposes. Where would we be without them? Because of their indispensibility, our water systems are likely one day to be the focus of terrorist attention if they are not already, but the task of protecting them is not easy: close to where I live are the Elan Valley Lakes, a most beautiful and extensive series of linked reservoirs and dams set in remote countryside and impossible, I imagine, to protect fully from determined sabotage.
We do not know yet if the dam that burst on the River Elbe was damaged by nature or man, though in view of the floods the former seems more likely – another reminder of the power of nature to reclaim her own. It concerns me that we have so determinedly changed our natural watercourses through blocking and damming, draining, diverting and extracting rather than accommodating our needs to the flows and rhythms of our essential rivers, streams and lakes harmoniously. Because so much has been done to force our landscape to be as we wish it to be, much of the water has gone underground, huge reservoirs beneath our feet waiting to emerge one day, just as, one day, the rivers will run as they choose and did before, perhaps to our cost.
It is an interesting thought is it not? The man-made water systems we depend upon could be denied us by the malicious actions of man, while Gaia’s most precious gift, abused for so long, could overwhelm us in its abundance. It is not too late to find the balance between these two extremes, but who will hear and understand?