China’s Three Gorges dam has been toasted by its planners as the engineering marvel of the 21st century. As the world largest hydroelectric river dam, the project is expected to produce more than 100 billion kw of electricity after its completion; and is simultaneously expected to end the requirements for irrigation in the Yangtze-Kiang river basin region, and even the problems of flooding. This post-modern project has the potential to really help China; but unfortunately, the project has also raised high geological, social and ecological concerns.
Yangtze, according to scientists, adds close to 530 million tonnes of silt to its reservoir. Thus, though the dam might address short-term concerns, in the long run, it might result in the death of the river itself. Furthermore, the 600 km long reservoir is likely to inundate close to 1,300 archeological sites and displace up to 1.9 million people. The undemocratic and dictatorial planning for dams in China has historically ensured that no anthropologists or sociologists are included in the planning team. In this case, the unstable geology of the region has great danger of causing dam induced earthquakes, something China has experienced regularly – in 1975, the Banqiao-Shimantan reservoir collapsed affecting close to 12 million before killing more than 200,000; China has recorded as many as 15 earthquakes caused by dams; in 1962, and witnessed one of the most powerful dam induced earthquakes.
The path of modern development should also look at the environmental sustainability. The Three Gorges dam will definitely support development, but its effect on China’s environment has not been properly analysed.