Massive Infrastructure Projects Are Failing at Unprecedented Rates

Though few recognized it at the time, 2011 may mark a turning point for the era of building mega energy and mining projects around the world, according to experts. That year, a series of natural disasters energized civic resistance to giant projects. At the same time, alternative and renewable energy technologies have evolved as cheaper, safer options. And more traditional industrial projects that have moved forward have tended to be smaller scale.

In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the 41-year-old, 4,700-megawatt Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power station in northern Japan, one of the 15 largest nuclear electrical generating plants in the world.

Seven months later and 3,000 miles east, two more mega energy projects failed in India. Early in December a large group of farmers and activists, supported by a Himalayan state government’s concern about fisheries and flooding, barricaded access roads and shut down construction of the $1.6 billion, 2,000-megawatt Lower Subansiri hydropower dam on the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. On December 31, 2011, along the Bay of Bengal coast in Tamil Nadu, Cyclone Thane wrecked the $2 billion Nagarjuna oil refinery as it was nearing completion. Operations at the hydropower dam and the refinery never resumed.

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