The Iranian firm FARAB has recently been award a contract from the goverment of Mali (in west Africa) for the construction of a hydroelectric power plant at Kénié, 35 kilometres from the capital of Bamako. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2008.
The power plant will have a capacity of 35 MW, using Pelton turbines. FARAB is delivering this to the government on a build/operate/transfer (BOT) basis. As is typical with projects such as this, construction will involve a great deal of excavation in the river bed and installation of the turbines to produce power through the flow of the river.
This story is being passed on to illustrate the fact that technology, and the ability to commercialise it, is something that is not unique to "developed" countries. It was a point I made last year in my post commemorating the tenth anniversary of my geotechnical information site:
Without a doubt the greatest jolt in the road in the last ten years has been 11 September 2001 and the events that have followed it. When the geotechnical documents first went up, the idea was to provide free information so that those who could not afford it—students, engineers in Third World countries whose company/agency could not afford it (or those elsewhere whose employers were too cheap!) and the like could have access to important information necessary in the construction of civil works of all kinds. No field of human endeavour has brought more benefit to daily life and human health at less cost than civil engineering and the water, sewer and transportation systems that have followed. A world where everyone has a reasonable chance is one where this knowledge is widely disseminated and used, and experience at Vulcan demonstrated that the best way to accomplish this was to put the necessary tools in the hands of those who would benefit the most.
The combination of the continuing inequity of the various parts of our world suggests that the need for vulcanhammer.net. But there are those on its “home front” that might take exception to such things being so freely available. The course of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan provides a good example. We know that the information is used by the U.S. military (they put most of it out to start with,) sometimes from the site. We also know that many in the surrounding countries visit the site. Is this dangerous? Geotechnical engineering, while employing many computerised advantages today, is not considered “high tech.” But no structure on earth can be built without a foundation.
Experience in the engineering profession teaches that knowledge cannot be kept locked up indefinitely. The geotechnical and marine engineering communities, while relatively small, are worldwide and diverse. Engineers, more than those in the pure sciences, are painfully aware that they and the decision makers for the technology seldom overlap. The responsible use of technology is generally the province of others. Linked to that responsible use is a reasonably rational economic and political system, without which technology doesn’t get put into use well if at all. In other words, really crazy systems tend to get in their own way. Those who want their destiny to be better need to take the proper decisions to make that happen, one way or another.
And vulcanhammer.net is celebrating its eleventh anniversary next week.