Posted tagged ‘hydraulics’


November 8, 2010

Erle Frayne Argonza y Delago

Magandang araw! Good day!

Around two (2) years ago, I articulated in one article the gigantic project that will rise in the Mekong River very soon. I was at that time already very supportive of the project, a support that I will re-echo at this moment.

For those unfamiliar with the project, a plan was hatched at the middle part of the decade for an integrated project along the Mekong River. Since the river begins upstream at the China side, China logically has to be involved in it. Finally, with blueprints for implementation on the go around 2007 yet, China committed to fund the projected cost of $100 Billion.

So huge a project, it will have couples of components into it. Power generation, irrigation, flood control, transportation, and tourism comprise the core sector components. A project of that size is four (4) times bigger than China’s own 3-Gorges Dam (it cost $23 at 2000 price index) and could be the largest that the world will ever have experienced once fully accomplished.

Benefiting approximately 300 million beneficiaries along its courses, the project is bound to spur development and generate incomes many folds larger than its total investments. If we use the econometric index of annual income yield that is 10X, then we can expect an annual income yield of $1 Trillion from out of the upstream and downstream industries induced by the project.

Since China is involved in it right now (as implementation is going on), then we expect China to receive the ROI (return on investments) in the widest expanse of benefits possible. That means, once fully operational, China will infuse more investments in the region to fully benefit from the project alone. The ROI will then be much greater than the original $100 accruing to China alone on an annual basis.

We can therefore hope for an excellent win/win situation for China and the ASEAN countries involved (Vietnam is the lead country executor). In the long run, we should hope that the same project would accrue to the growth & development of the entire ASEAN region that is bound to institute an economic union by 2015.

A win/win formula for the ASEAN itself is for it to use the Mekong project as exemplar to design and implement similar projects in other member countries, particularly in island southeast Asia. A particular office can be created in the ASEAN secretariat to oversee and help similar projects that can spin off in other parts of the region.

Since an ASEAN central bank is due for institution by 2015, let us expect that monetary instruments for financial packages can be had for gigantic infrastructure projects of the magnitude of the Mekong project. Probably an ASEAN Development Bank can also rise alongside the central bank, thus reinforcing the potency for launching gigantic projects that will be financed internally by the region itself.

If ever the ASEAN will wish to tap other countries for co-financing of the projects, it should be the emerging markets as top priority such as China, India, and Brazil, countries that will be more sympathetic to regional development. The option will help us veer away from the mal-intents of Northern banks that tied up developing countries in debt peonage and won at the expense of the developing countries.

As a matter of goodwill, ASEAN should better enter into the picture and look at other facets of the project that the future union can fund. The expansion phases of the Mekong project, for instance, can be taken over by the ASEAN itself, thus lessening dependence from external funders.

There are always pains to any large project, these being part of the costs of any undertaking. Nonetheless, the Mekong project should be supported and must go on until full completion. This will render it as an exemplar just right in time for the creation of the ASEAN economic union by 2015.

[Philippines, 05 November 2010]







September 25, 2010


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good morning to all ye global citizens! Goodwill and peace to you!

For this day I chose to peregrinate on the 3-Gorges Dam of China, a project that cost a whopping $23 Billion to build. The eco-fascist detractors of the project raised the specter of catastrophe that could result from a collapse of the dam infrastructure, so maybe its time to reflect about the giant energy project.

I just arrived from overseas assignment in 2002 when I had the opportunity to discuss the 3-Gorges dam in my social science classes in Manila. At that time, I was offered a Director post in a think-tank of the Augustinian sisters, a stint that gave me opportunity to mine enormous data about the latest development engagements nationally and globally. I also taught as lecturer while directing research, which surely offered me a privileged position to reflect about global issues.

Being one who has been involved in the planning works on ambitious development projects (e.g. industrial estate/free trade zone, economic support projects for marginal sectors worth hundreds of millions of dollars) as a practitioner, I was truly appreciative of the efforts of China’s state to tame the Yangtze and tap its power-packed waters for electrification, irrigation, and subsidiary purposes. Though environmentally-driven myself, I am not wont to deliver satirical and destructive remarks about such a project as the 3-Gorges Dam that can benefit a greater section of China’s population and economy.

There are always negative trade-offs to any big endeavor, such as the displacement of 1.4 million folks along the reservoir area of the dam. What project of such a stature in the world doesn’t have a downside to it anyway? The downsides are the ones highlighted the most by paid hacksters of the West’s financier oligarchs, notably the political greenies whose obsessive-compulsive reflexes are unmatched anywhere in the world.

The USA had its own taste of baptism of fire from destructive commentators when the FD Roosevelt regime built the Hoover Dam. A pioneering infrastructure and energy project during its own time, the project received enormous media detractions that were paid by Nazi  oligarchs in the homeland who, not to say the least, owned and controlled America’s giant media outfits (they own media till these days). The detractors did everything in the books in fact to destroy FDR for his innovative New Deal measures that included massive infrastructures as pump priming tool to take out America from the Great Depression towards recovery and prosperity.

As one can see, the Hoover Dam stood the test of time, and it remains as one of the marvels of America’s public works. It is too early to say about what can happen to the 3-Gorges Dam, but it has parallelisms to the Hoover Dam and other ambitious infrastructure projects of the New Deal heydays, projects that the predatory financiers in America couldn’t play their hands with as they are primarily state-sponsored.

Understandly, the West’s financiers can not benefit directly from projects initiated by China’s government, even as it is now too late for destructive Western forces to take down China’s economy through massive looting of the financial markets the way they’ve done to their own domestic economies in the EU and USA. So they employ those civil society groups that receive funds from the financiers’ ‘corporate social responsibility’ coffers, with the expectation that the activist funds recipients would drum up the destructive impacts of projects they cannot control such as the 3-Gorges Dam.

In the event of heavy rainfalls however, there is reason to keep watch over the waters’ possible exceeding the 175-meter limit of the dam’s reservoir. As shown by our own precedents in the Philippines, the dam’s administrators used the contingency tool of releasing parts of the waters before the same could ever do damage on the dam through an overflow that could trigger a catastrophic burst of the infrastructure.

With decades of hydraulics experience behind our local experts here, this much I can say: so far so good! True, there were casualties who suffered from the inundations caused by the contingency releases of the rising floodwaters. But no single dam ever burst catastrophically yet, a catastrophe that could have resulted to higher casualties of at least a couple of millions of folks.

It’s now the start of the ‘ember’ months, and so far we are witness to the 3-Gorges Dam standing tall. So far so good! There are still three (3) more months to hurdle before the storms will bring heavy rainfalls, but so far the indications are the dam administrators can manage the hydraulic flows efficaciously.

If there is any message I can deliver to the eco-fascist blabbermouths, they should spread themselves across the world’s continents and plant trees in the de-forested boondocks. This behavior would be truly exemplary, as it will show that sociopathic groups and persons can also exhibit productive behavior during times of crisis.

[Philippines, 15 September 2010]







August 5, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines!

A water crisis is now looming big in Manila (the entire metropolis), the Philippine’s premier big city. The western side of the big city is particularly badly affected by pilferages and spillages (over 55% lost), thus reducing the volume of water available to around 7 million people more or less.

Such a situation has been causing panic lately on urban residents, a panic that could lead to water riots. The western side of the big city is flatlands, which renders it vulnerable to floods and consequent destruction of water pipelines during calamities. Contrast that to the eastern side that comprises of highlands where watershed areas are nestled.

Just recently, the palace officials in Manila have been pronouncing the mobilization of army troops to help deter possible water riots. This is a new twist in the history of army missions, as the mission is one of police task in an urban setting (most army missions comprise of anti-insurgency tasks in rural hinterlands).

The outbreak of water conflicts right at the heart of Manila appears  culled from the futuristic narratives of Isaac Asimov. The sci-fi genius prophesied (right after World War II) that the future will see communities divided between suburban highlands and urban lowlands. The residents of the suburbs, whose living comfort in gated villages is accompanied by robot sentinels, will comprise the upper class, while those of the urban lowlands, who will be exposed to the hovels of pollution, will comprise the lower class.

The urban-suburban divide seems to be gelling so fast in this country today. The water crisis caught palace officials and utilities bureaucrats flatfooted, even as they have been acting in near-hysteria fashion. A water war right in the big city is looming ahead, and there’s nothing in the management textbooks of the officials that can offer them quick solutions to an escalating crisis.

I do recall well that in the late 1990s, when I went back to graduate school to hone my skills in development policy via retooling with state-of-the-art analysis and social technologies, we already forecast the possibility of water wars (during classroom discussions). At that time, certain towns in the Cordilleras (mountain range to the north) began matter-of-factly to quarrel over water source and distribution. And so the challenge for us development workers was to craft mitigation measures that can deter such wars.

As soon as the new millennium began, Singapore and Malaysia did have some diplomatic confrontation regarding the issue of Singapore’s access to water sources found in Malaysia. The water source, so to speak, was getting depleted, thus slowly disabling Singapore from meeting its water needs. Desalination was the strategic solution to the problem, a surefire solution by Singapore’s visionary leaders that averted another conflict between the two polities (the earlier conflict led to Singapore’s separation from the Malaysian federation).

Certain policy experts and development workers are quite prepared for the eventuality of water wars in this 2nd world country, true. But those in the palace and even the legislature just may not have that luck of being exposed to new policy and institutional tools to deal with water-based conflicts.

Certainly too, the local execs and bureaucrats of Manila are unprepared for such a gargantuan crisis and eminent conflict based on water access and distribution. They haven’t retooled, and I know this for a fact based on my interaction with local officials known to me in the big city. They are mired in the old world, a world that is long gone (10 years ago in today’s context of rapid change is too long a time gone).

A water-based Asimovian nightmare is shaping up fast in Manila, and probably in other mega-cities around the world as well, a nightmare that is over-stretching the competencies of Establishment bureaucrats and politicians. The crisis exacerbates the urgency for urban lowland dwellers to leave the flatlands once and for all for the greener and water-rich highland suburbs, which could be the lowlanders’ panic complex response.

As an analyst and development practitioner, I am critical of any decision to use police state tactics to resolve the crisis. Scare tactics won’t let the problem fade away at all. The stakeholders better do their homework well, by getting together to dialogue, think and act. Through good all consensus they can configure what course of action to take that includes desalination of waters off Manila Bay.

Meantime, I am now all the more discouraged from ever residing or working in urban flatlands. Safely niched in Manila’s western highlands and suburban Calabarzon for the longest part of my life, I’d now rather heed the Asimovian option of better living in the suburbs, with or without the robot sentinels in our subdivision villages.

[Philippines, 23 July 2010]