Is The Three Gorges Dam a Force For Good?

21 Mar

The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and one of the most notorious dams in the world. Not only does the dam produce electricity for a large proportion of china’s inhabitants, factories and other socio-economic factors, it also increases the Yangtze River’s overall shipping capacity. As a result this improves space available for imports and exports, essentially benefitting china’s ever-growing economy. Whilst the dam was initially rewarded for its social and economic success and being branded as ‘a state-of-the-art historic engineering process’ by the Chinese government, China, as a whole are now beginning to acknowledge the serious problems created by this engineering process.

The creation of the reservoir has a number of economic values. ‘It will aid in boosting agriculture, since the reservoir will hold more water for irrigation. With a final depth of 525 ft, larger ships can be used to transport products up and down the Yangtze River. This increased navigability will increase the economy in the area.’ (, 2014) Trade is also estimated to increase five times in the Central China. Transportation costs are also expected to reduce by 35-37%.

The dam was produced with the idea of creating electricity and moving towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The project may have achieved these intentions, however, many concerns have arisen from the project since. The huge project set records for the number of people displaced by the creation of the dam, which was more than 1.2 million. A large number of cities and towns were also flooded as a consequence of its presence.

‘The project has been plagued by corruption, spiraling costs, environmental impacts, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties.’ (International Rivers, 2014), The environmental impacts of the project have also been profound. ‘The submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and waste dumps, and the presence of massive industrial centers upstream are creating a festering bog of effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish in the reservoir.’ (International Rivers, 2014). This has resulted in the widespread contamination of the waters around China, creating hazardous water and serious threats to anyone who may consume it, as well posing threats to the wildlife and nature around the area.

The dam also poses serious threat the land surrounding the dam. Erosion of the reservoir and downstream riverbanks are causing landslides, and threatening one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. Not only does this impact the environment, but also Chinese industries, such as the fishing industry.

The government maintains that “the project is now greatly benefiting the society in the aspects of flood prevention, power generation, river transportation and water resource utilization”, but it has also “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of the relocated communities.”

Critics have also argued that the project may have exacerbated recent droughts by withholding critical water supply to downstream users and ecosystems, and through the creation of a microclimate by its giant reservoir.

All in all, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam has had many implications on the environment and people of China. ‘Official estimates put the cost of the dam at $24 billion’ (TPJC, 2014), this also has to be paid by the people of China and many are wondering if their money is really being put to good use. It is still yet to be discovered if the energy created by the Three Gorge Dam can be efficiently utilized into China’s energy grid. If proven successful, this could result in many other countries in the world following a similar path to China and constructing dams of their own.


International Rivers. 2014. Three Gorges Dam. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014]. 2014. Economic Issues. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].

TPJC, G. 2014. Three Gorges Dam. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].



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