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The weight of the reservoir's water has many

Three Gorges scientists concerned over reservoir-induced
seismicity. Critics have also argued that the project
may have exacerbated recent droughts by

Dam withholding critical water supply to downstream
users and ecoystems, and through the creation of a
microclimate by its giant reservoir. In 2011, China's
highest government body for the first time officially
acknowledged the "urgent problems" of the Three
Gorges Dam.

Three Gorges Dam Nears Completion
Seth Rosenblatt
The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest
hydropower project and most notorious dam. The
massive project sets records for number of people
displaced (more than 1.2 million), number of cities Pollution in the Three Gorges Reservoir
and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 International Rivers
villages), and length of reservoir (more than 600 Through the Three Gorges Project, China has
kilometers). The project has been plagued by acquired the know-how to build large hydropower
corruption, spiraling costs, environmental schemes, and has begun exporting similar
impacts, human rights violations and resettlement projects around the world. Now that the project's
difficulties. problems have been acknowledged, it is important
The Three Gorges Dam is a model for disaster, yet to draw lessons from the experience so that the
Chinese companies are replicating this model both problems of the Yangtze dam are not repeated.
domestically and internationally. Within China, huge While Three Gorges is the world’s biggest hydro
hydropower cascades have been proposed and are project, the problems at Three Gorges are not
being constructed in some of China’s most pristine unique. Around the world, large dams are causing
and biologically and culturally diverse river basins - social and environmental devastation while better
the Lancang (Upper Mekong) River, Nu alternatives are being ignored.
(Salween) River and upstream of Three Gorges Dam
on the Yangtze River and tributaries.The International Rivers protects rivers and defends the
environmental impacts of the project are profound, rights of the communities which depend on them.
and are likely to get worse as time goes on. The We monitor the social and environmental problems
submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and of the Three Gorges Dam, and work to ensure that
waste dumps, and the presence of massive industrial the right lessons are drawn for energy and water
centers upstream are creating a festering bog of projects in China and around the world.
effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish in the
reservoir. Erosion of the reservoir and downstream
riverbanks is causing landslides, and threatening one
of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea.

including government was going to approve no less than 140 more frequent landslides and pollution.” Weng Lida. What is new about this acknowledgment? China’s well-connected hydropower bureaucracy And what does it mean for China’s future dam have complained that this period.” an official Chinese government officials have admitted the from the Nu Valley in Yunnan Province commented problems of the world’s largest hydropower project in January. when fewer dams building plans? than planned were built. “We thought of all the develop is not an option. protect the Several destructive new projects on the Yangtze and Yangtze’s ecosystem and prevent geological other rivers were suspended. environmental and energy administration plans to build new dam geological problems of the project in our factsheet cascades on the Nu River. The a summary of the social. “But the problems are all upper hand within China’s government. senior officials warned that the project had announced that under its new Five-Year Plan. it For a few years. the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of The undammed Nu River in China's Southwest the relocated communities. more serious than we expected. which could gigawatts of new hydropower projects. “The resources here are too good.) reaches of the Yangtze and its tributaries. Representatives of disasters. China’s government has just acknowledged the serious problems of the Three Gorges Dam. power generation. but it has also “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection. The opinions within .” Around the same the head of the National Energy Administration time. the middle and upper from November 2009. not to on the Yangtze River before. river transportation and water resource utilization. China’s National People’s Congress adopted the new Five-Year Plan in March. “The project is now greatly benefiting the society in the aspects of flood prevention.” the government maintained. This amounts result in an environmental “catastrophe” if to seven Three Gorges dams and is more than any preventive measures were not taken. and the upper Mekong. the secretary general of the Yangtze River Forum. the Chinese government appeared announced concrete measures to improve the living to heed the lessons from the Three Gorges Dam.Chinese Government Acknowledges Problems of Three Gorges Dam The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River In an unexpected statement. but the plan for the energy sector is still under discussion. (You can find other country has built in its entire history. were “wasted years. the caused an array of ecological problems.” possible issues. told the Wall Street The hydropower lobbyists seem to have kept the Journal in August 2007.” On the same day.” “We must proceed [with hydropower dams]. conditions of the displaced people. In February.

The fluctuating water levels of the reservoir on the Yangtze have destabilized hundreds of miles of slopes and triggered massive landslides. Hu Siyi. He acknowledged that the ability of water projects “to resist floods. the seismic and pollution than coal-fired power plants” in terms of geological risks of dams could no longer be ignored. Most of the projects discussed under the new Five-Year Plan would be built in China’s mountainous Southwestern region. resettlement problems and In April. Environmental organizations invited Sun Wenpeng and Xu Daoyi. who is a geologist himself. ecological impacts. further illustrated the risk of building hydropower projects on fault lines.the government appear to be sharply divided. which is seismically active. Pushing back against the dam builders.” . After the warned that “hydropower could cause more severe earthquake disaster in Japan. which damaged hundreds of dams and may have been triggered by a reservoir.” Landslide on the Three Gorges reservoir As yesterday’s government statement confirms. earthquakes and other natural disasters has become an issue of increasing public concern. upper Mekong and upper Yangtze] is stronger than anywhere in the world – how can they build a cascade of dams here?” The scientists also warned that the proposed dams “may increase the risks of geological disasters. called the risk of earthquakes and other natural disasters the biggest obstacle to dam building in the country’s Southwest. geological hazards. a vice-minister of water resources. a senior Sun and Xu submitted their findings to the Premier official in the Ministry of Environmental Protection Wen Jiabao. to pay a field visit to the Nu Valley to investigate the region’s unique tectonic formations. The devastating earthquake of 2008 in Sichuan Province. two senior Chinese geologists. They found that “the tectonic movement in the Three Parallel Rivers area [of the Nu. a key lesson of the Three Gorges Project is that dams can have serious geological impacts.