The Three Gorges Dam: Enviornmentally Ruining China?
By: Jonathan Folsom
April 22nd, 2014
In the aftermath of Mao Zedong, China was viewed as a powerless and developing nation. In 2009, the Chinese executed the record-breaking world’s largest engineering and hydropower project on the Yangtze River.1 This 23 billion (US) dollar project is known as the Three Gorges Dam.2 The dam stands at 607 feet tall, stretches over a mile wide, and is equipped with twenty-six generators.3 Not only does this project symbolize China’s power, it provides China with ten percent of its electrical needs using eco-friendly energy.4 5 The massive dam was created on the longest river in China to generate power and control the flooding of the Yangtze River.6 Although the engineers intended for the project to be “green” or not harmful to the environment, biologists, geologists, and environmentalists have all been averse to the dam.7 The Three Gorges Dam is disturbing the ecosystem, biosphere and other natural elements in China. The Three Gorges Dam has been the cause of Earthquakes in China and Reservoir Induced Seismicity. The titanic dam is also responsible for damaging floods and severe tainting of the once clean waters of the Yangtze River.
Issue #1: Earthquakes/Reservoir-Induced Seismicity
The building of the Three Gorges Dam has resulted in Earthquakes, Reservoir-Induced Seismicity, and Flooding in China. The reservoir that was created for the dam contains a colossal 1.87 trillion cubic feet of water8 and was built on an active fault line.9 The gigantic weight of this extensive reservoir which supports the Three Gorges Dam caused the tectonic plates in the Earth’s upper crust to shift. The weight-induced movement resulted in a powerful and deadly earthquake. This phenomenon is referred to as Reservoir-Induced Seismicity: the Three Gorges Dam is at fault for creating this.10 In May of 2008, the Sichuan province experienced a powerful earthquake that killed eighty-seven thousand of it’s residents.11 Another disastrous effect, caused by the enormous reservoir, is that it magnifies the size of the flooding. The dam was built on and therefore eradicated much farmland. The further potential threat of flooding, due to the dam, created a secondary risk to the farming community and the health and production of agriculture. 12 The dam was built to control flooding, but the year 1998 made this fact inevident. The dam flooded and took the lives of four-thousand people, left fourteen-million citizens homeless, and resulted in twenty-four million dollars in economic loss.13 Also, as waters rose and the dam flooded, it submerged and destroyed roughly thirteen-hundred ancient settlements of historical and cultural importance.14 A quote from Craig Simons, the author of The Devouring Dragon says that during a tour of the dam, “The group found relics dating to 5000 BC along a stretch riverbank that would be flooded by the end of the year. Millions of similar sites had never been examined and, as the waters rose, a wide swath of history was being erased.”15 The Flying Tigers airfield is a section of the land included in the statistics that Craig is referring to.16 The World Bank turned down the opportunity to make an investment in the Three Gorges Dam due to the overwhelming factors which pointed to its major environmental concerns.17 The dam’s behemoth size created these serious environmental issues which included calamitous earthquakes and flooding.
Issue #2: Water
When the Three Gorges Dam catapults floods, it creates a watery grave. Even greater than the loss of historical buildings, defining artifacts and productive farms are the lives of people and animals as well as extinction of certain species. After the Three Gorges Dam was built, the deterioration of the water quality is very obvious and it is irreversible, said...
Bibliography: Albert, Justin, dir. Three Gorges the Biggest Dam in the World. Narrated by Jodie Foster. The Discovery Channel, 1998.
Cheng, Linsun. “Three Gorges Dam.” In Encyclopedia of China, 2256-59. 2009 ed. Vol. 5. Modern and Historic Views of the World’s Newest and Oldest Global Powers. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group, 2009.
This was a scholarly source with a plethora of information on it. I used it for the “future” part of my essay and briefly in the “issue #1” paragraph.
Deirdre Chetham, Before the Delunge (New York City, US: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), [Page 263]
New York Times Company. “Sichuan Earthquake.” The New York Times. Last modified May 6, 2009. Accessed April 14, 2014. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/earthquakes/sichuan_province_china/.
Wee, Sui-Lee. “Thousands Being Moved from China’s Three Gorges Dam.” Reuters. Accessed April 16, 2014. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/22/us-china-threegorges-idUSBRE87L0ZW20120822.
World Meteorological Orginaztion. “Addressing the Potential Climate Effects of China’s Three Gorges Project.” WMO Bulletin. Accessed April 16, 2014. http://www.wmo.int/pages/publications/bulletin_en/addressing_potential_climate_effects_project_en.html.
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