If completed, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It would stretch 2,150 meters across and tower 185 meters above the world’s third longest river. Its reservoir would be over 600 kilometres long and force the displacement of as many as 1.9 million people.
Known to many environmentalists as “the Mother of All Dams,” the Three Gorges Dam Project is clearly the largest public works project since the Great Wall and is the world’s most environmentally and socially destructive infrastructure project. Despite rising international opposition to the project, the Chinese government has been adamant in moving it forward, as a symbol of China’s development and “superior organizing.”
On balance I think that our company should provide money and fund this project. The main reason for my decision is that from this one project, many will arise from this. The damn will not only provide only Hydro-Electric Power, but will also provide a great fishing industry for China. The minor sacrifices will have to be made such as making the river dolphin extinct and loosing old important artefacts which can be of use to archaeologists. Besides this, the most important priority is to develop the country’s economy. China’s economy is what counts and it will not improve by keeping old artefacts.
Although previous attempts for hydro-electric power in China have not been so popular, I believe that things have advanced and that now is the time to snap any opportunities for the country.
In order to minimize the negative impacts on the 12 million who will have to move house, I suggest that they are given high rise flats to live in and provided with a job of some sort. This will minimize the negative feedback which will be received by the government.
The natural environment will be greatly affected by the late and by the dam blocking the ricer flow. I suggest that we should attempt to conserve the river dolphin by transferring them to another river which will not be affected by the dam. We must exploit what God has given us and utilize the land to its fullest potential. There will be many conflicts between the conservative people and the environmentalists against the government officials. This may turn into a multiplier effect, because if one group of people revolt, then this will lead to another group, then another and so on.
Another view is that when the dam is built, there will be many jobs available. The dam will lead to a mammoth fishing industry, and this will lead to other jobs (the multiplier effect).
At present, the ‘quality of life’ of local people is below the national average of China. In order to maximise the positive impacts of the scheme, I suggest that the Chinese government should make up the loss for the public via housing them, making sure that they get a secure job. That way, their moral will be higher and they will actually feel that they have benefited from the scheme.
There are some positive aspects for the scheme and also some negative ones. They are listed below.
* Flood Control – Seasonal flooding is a serious problem along lower Yangtze, occurring approximately every 5 years. During the past 2 000 years since the Han Dynasty, 214 flood disasters recorded along Yangtze, 11 of them in the last 70 years. 1870 flood, considered the largest for 4 000 years, drowned 240 000 people and 1 million hectares of land. During the 1931 140 000 killed, during the 1954 flood, 30 000 killed and 1 million homeless. In 1996, 2 700 were killed.
* Power Generation – Coal provides 66% of China’s energy, burning 1.1-1.2 billion tons of coal per annum and emitting vast volumes of carbon dioxide. Continued industrial growth and growing energy demands will increase this figure. The future Sanxia hydropower station will be largest in the world and reduce China’s dependence on coal. 26 turbines, each possibly 400 tons each, will generate 18 200 MW (50% more than the Itaipï¿½ Dam, Paraguay, the world’s present biggest) (Zich, 1997). This will be equivalent to the output of 178 nuclear power plants, or the burning of 40-50 million tons of coal per year or 25 million tons of crude oil per year . This will drastically reduce carbon dioxide and sulphur emissions and so limiting future increases in greenhouse effect and acid rain. In contrast, virtually pollution-free HEP seems an attractive proposition.
* Improved Navigation – Ships will be able to get in and out of the rivers easily, making this also a great sea port.
* Economic Growth and Development – HEP power will allow for industrial growth and supply power to Eastern and Central China and Eastern Sichaun. Concomitant with the dam, construction of new towns and infrastructure are generating employment. At present, 60 000 workers are employed at the dam site. Construction of the dam in Central China is of strategic importance. Destruction would be disastrous both militarily and for nation.
* Environmental Impacts – The environmental impacts as a consequence of the construction of large dams is well documented in the scientific literature. The greatest effects will be on the patterns of erosion and deposition in the river, the unnatural flow regime downstream of the dam, and water quality and temperature will affect ecosystems downstream.
* Sedimentation – Erosion of bed and banks downstream, and channel lowering (degradation, is expected to occur for hundreds of kilometres downstream, eroding flood control embankments, undermining bridge supports, changing hydrological regime of the river . The effects may be felt as far downstream as the mouth of the Yangtze – the delta may become eroded due to reduction in sediment. Although accommodating smaller flood events, it is argued that dam will not be able to contain largest floods, and so flood hazard will remain a problem downstream.
* Water Pollution – The Yangtze River is presently the biggest sewer in China. Pollutants from thousands of industrial plants and mining (including heavy metals such as arsenic, cyanide and methylmercury), agricultural runoff, residential wastewater, urban sewers, pollution from shipping enter the river. Obstructing river flow and slowing water will concentrate toxins and pollutants, which otherwise would have been washed downstream and out to sea. Furthermore, the cessation of annual flooding and deposition of fertile silt onto fields, resulting in increased use of chemical fertilisers and resulting associated problems of nitrate runoff and groundwater pollution.
* Land slides – Loading of the dam structure and reservoir water on the Earth’s crust may place generate further crustal stresses in an area already prone to small earthquakes. In 1958 a large landslide near the site generated a flood wave tens of metres high (Pearce, 1992). Overtopping of the dam or dam breach could submerge towns and cities such as Wuhan.
* Archaeological Losses – The region has been inhabited since Palaeolithic and has accumulated a wealth of archaeological sites remain. Although some, such as Zhang Fei Temple at Yungang, will be relocated (Zich, 1997), 800 sites of cultural relics will be destroyed (Internet 2). This will affect the tourism to the area.
* Agriculture – 14 500 hectares of agricultural land will be inundated. Compensation will be needed farmers. Increased output will be required from other land, but farming on higher ground may have less fertility and thinner soils. There will also be loss of fertile sediment previously deposited on floodplain downstream during annual floods. Farming near estuary will be affected by lower flows and intrusion of salt water around Shanghai.
* Fisheries – Consequences include change of habitats, a general transformation from rapid to slow moving waters and reduction in sediment, and soils being deprived replenishment of nutrients from sediments. Commercial fisheries will be affected (black, silver, grass and variegated carp breed) and fish are often killed in electric turbines of dams.
* Economic Impacts – Industry will be displaced and, although new industries will be attracted, costs will be high.