When the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam was completed in 2006, most Chinese citizens must have hoped it was worth the huge cost: 1.4 million people had to be relocated from towns, cities, and villages to make way for the enormous structure, which would supplement a hungry China’s growing energy needs.But their prayers have not been answered.
Six years later, the government says a further 100,000 people may be displaced over the next few years, including 20,000 this year alone, because of increasing landslide risks in the area around the dam, Reuters reports.
The Three Gorges Project is located at Sāndòupíng in the Xilingxia gorge, one of the three gorges on the Yangtze river.
While official estimates put the cost of production at $23 billion, international experts believe it cost more than double that.
The project also increased the amount of cargo transported across the river to 50 million tons, triple the maximum annual amount prior to the dam's construction.
About 1.4 million people were displaced when construction began, and 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages were submerged when the reservoir reached its full capacity of 40 billion cubic meters (1,412.6 billion cubic feet).
(Source: The New York Times)
A further 100,000 will be moved over the next three to five years because of landslides and bank collapses.
The number of landslides and other natural disasters has increased by 70 per cent since the reservoir filled up in 2010.
Some say it played a role in the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which killed 87,000 people, though the government denies this.
While there is no concrete evidence, critics say the dam altered regional water tables, which led to residents downstream of Three Gorges losing access to drinking water in the drought from January-April 2011, according to The New York Times. China's Xinhua news agency put the number of those affected at 10 million. It was widely considered the worst drought in 50 years.
The drought negated most of the dam's plus points: ships were stranded and central and eastern China faced a power shortage.
The Chinese State Council said it knew about some of the problems even before construction began 17 years ago, while some other issues have arisen since because of 'new demands as the social and economical situation developed'.
But despite this late admission, the plan was always contentious. A third of Chinese MPs voted against the plan or abstained.
(Source: the BBC)
There are plans to build a series of dams on a section of the upper Yangtze which, combined, will have a capacity more than twice that of the Three Gorges Dam. But not only is this region seismically active, the project could deprive Three Gorges of water, according to the AP.
Other plans include possibly building dams along the Nu River and the upper Mekong, which would be fatal to the area's fragile ecosystems and endangered species, Foreign Policy reports.
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