After the disaster that befell the city of Derna in eastern Libya, due to the collapse of two old dams, where heavy water flowing from them washed away a quarter of the city's buildings, many voices were raised saying that this horrific tragedy could have been foreseen and prevented.

There are details that have not yet been revealed in this regard, but information circulating indicates that the collapse of the Derna dams was caused by poor maintenance and poor monitoring of reservoirs flooded by heavy water that fell on the area as a result of Storm Daniel that hit eastern Libya.

According to a report published by the Associated Press, specialists issued warnings last year about the deterioration of the condition of the city's dams, advising them to carry out the necessary maintenance to avoid such a scenario, but they did not undergo the necessary maintenance.

The Derna Dam was built in the seventies of the last century, during an era that represented the peak of dam construction around the world, as dams were built at a rate of a thousand dams annually in that period.

Experts now believe that most of these dams have reached the end of their supposed life. This foreshadows the possibility of other Derna-like disasters elsewhere in the world, if they are not properly maintained or eliminated altogether.

Dangerous dams

There are many dams around the world that pose a threat to the inhabitants of nearby areas, but the most dangerous are located in India, China and the United States.

In both China and India, where the 28,<> massive dams built in the mid-twentieth century are now nearing the end of their supposed life.

In India, for example, the Mulaperiar Dam in Kerala is over 100 years old, has visible ancient damage and is located in an earthquake-prone area.

If this huge ancient dam collapses, it would pose a danger to the 3 and a half million people in the region living downstream.

In the United States, the second largest country in terms of dam numbers after China, the average lifespan of dams is 65 years, and an estimated 2200,<> dams are at risk of collapse.

U.S. authorities have allocated $3 billion to maintain some of them, but that amount is very small, and covers a few of those dams, whose total maintenance cost is estimated at $76 billion.

Climate change

Climate change is another factor adding to the time factor that increases concern about the dangers of old dams, as these dams are designed to withstand the worst conditions imagined by those who built them in the last century, but they did not take into account the extreme climate that the world is witnessing today.

Weather events, once seen as occurring once in a century, are now frequent, posing a threat to old dams and increasing the likelihood of them collapsing or cracking at best.

The disaster that befell Derna, Libya, due to the collapse of its dams, was not the first incident of ancient dams, as heavy rains and storms associated with climate change negatively affected some of the world's dams.

In 2017, heavy rains destroyed the old Oroville Dam in California, leading to the evacuation of nearby residents.

In 2021, a piece of Himalayan ice destroyed one dam in northern India and damaged another, killing dozens of people in the stricken region.

Some believe that the disaster of the collapse of the two dams in Derna, Libya, represents a siren warning of the dire consequences of neglecting other old dams around the world, some of which are calling for the need to get rid of some of them and speed up the maintenance of what needs maintenance.

The collapse of the two dams in Derna, Libya, caused Hurricane Daniel in Seoul and devastating floods that left thousands dead and missing, and 40,<> displaced in the northeast of the country.