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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

January 8, 2008

Written by C.N.

Environmental Dangers of Three Gorges Dam

For those who may not be familiar with China’s Three Gorges Dam project, it is basically an effort to dam up the Yangtze River to provide hydro-electrical power and expanded shipping routes to meet China’s growing industrial needs. It is also one of the largest engineering projects in the history of human civilization. The Associated Press has an article that nicely summarizes its initial goals and its subsequent environmental impacts, both good and bad:

The $22 billion dam, the world’s biggest hydroelectric project, was supposed to end flooding along the Yangtze and provide a clean energy alternative to coal. Approved in 1992 and due to be completed in 2009, it will generate 84.7 billion kilowatts of electricity each year — the equivalent of what it takes to light the counties of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, according to figures from 2005.

Yet along the way, more than 1.4 million people had to be moved. Though critics and experts warned the environment and people would pay too high a price, their criticisms were ignored and suppressed by a government in thrall to large engineering projects.

Even a few officials are breaking ranks to predict catastrophe. Toxic algae is blooming, feeding off industrial waste and sewage and tainting water supplies.

Experts have warned that the waters in the enormous reservoir are undermining hillsides. Water seeps into loosely packed soil and rocks, making them heavier and wetter, and can trigger landslides on steep slopes like those rising from the Yangtze. Additionally, the huge weight of the water on the rock bed exerts a pressure that can lead to earthquakes. . . .

As criticism has mounted in recent weeks along with the problems . . . the government has launched a renewed public relations campaign stressing the project’s benefits. . . . Beijing also says it will shore up the area’s environment with new measures to control pollution, close industrial and mining enterprises and monitor geological hazards.

As China prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, its environmental record is only one of several important issues that is receiving scrutiny from the international community, and rightfully so.

I am interested to see how China responds when the spotlight of the world is shining on it. How will China respond when it faces repeated and intense criticisms about not only its environmental record but also on its human rights abuses, media censorship, lack of democracy, religious crackdowns, consumer safety, etc.?

If China wants to be considered an international superpower, it needs to have answers for these questions.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Environmental Dangers of Three Gorges Dam" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/01/environmental-dangers-of-three-gorges-dam/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=532