The Three Gorges Dam, spanning the Yangtze River in China, was ambitiously developed and began operating in 2003. Stretching over 2km wide and 60 storeys high and costing the Chinese government over $40billion the dam is predicted to produce 20,000 megawatts of power at its peak. Opening as the World’s largest source of hydroelectric power it has been seen by many as a source of motivation to begin focusing more on renewable energy as we reach the peak of non-renewables and the threat of climate change looms. However, despite this, there is much controversy surrounding the dam and whether or not the displacement of over a million people and significant biodiversity shift which has occurred as a result has been worth it.
The dam has certainly provided many positives, especially since China has been rapidly developing and using vast amounts of non-renewable energy. The dam has been a contributor in China attempting to gain control of their excessive energy use in a more sustainable way and will provide cheap and clean electric power to 60 million people. In a time of uncertainty about the future of energy, the dam has helped highlight the importance of finding alternatives for energy use.
Nevertheless, the dam has also caused a number of significant issues over the past decade. For example 1 million people have had to be displaced and moved elsewhere due to deliberate flooding of the Yangtze river; a process which has caused a vast amount of tension, especially for those who are yet to be compensated in any way and raising human rights issues. Many of those who were moved then faced poverty and unemployment as they’ve lost the river as their livelihoods. As well as this, culturally sensitive sites have been destroyed in order for the dam to be constructed and biodiversity shifted because of the changes made to the river’s flow with some scientists even suggesting species have become extinct due to it. Environmental impacts are also very evident, for examples; erosion of the reservoir and downstream riverbanks, increase in landslides, increased droughts, extremely low water levels and overall ecological dedrgetaion.
However, are these just short term issues which will fix themselves over time or will they in fact intensify? Only time will tell whether the dam has been a huge failure or significant success but for the time being China has come under much criticism for the many negative consequences, both socially and environmentally, that the dam has caused.