by Niu Kangsheng
I cannot help shuddering at the time and money that would be demanded by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, as the Canadian feasibility study indicates: the former is measured by decades and the latter in astronomical figures. For I know, as many people from China do, that in the mountain villages in the Three Gorges area, many people are still trapped in great poverty. The entire belongings of a village couple with several children might amount to nothing more than 70 U.S. dollars. If you care to ask them, “What should come first to make your life better, the Three Gorges Dam or a bag of fertilizer?” I am pretty sure that they will not hesitate to reply, “A bag of fertilizer.”
When a fish is trapped in a dry ditch, what would you do to rescue it, if you cherish all good intentions? Give it a bucket of water immediately, or promise it plenty of water from a big river sometime later? Zhuang Zi, a well-known Chinese philosopher, active more than 2,000 years ago, tells us in one of his fables that to save a fish so trapped, you should give it a bucket of water immediately. Many Chinese today, including the mountain villagers, still reason the same way as Zhuang Zi does – down-to-earth and wisely.
I cannot help shuddering at the vastness of the man-made lake that would “rise in the precipitous gorges”, for it would submerge one of the cradles of Chinese civilization in deep water and gradually bury it with sand and silt. And when I consider the drastic changes the man-made lake would cause to the environment, I cannot but recall Friedrich Engels’ famous remarks to the effect that for every victory Man scores over Nature, Nature will eventually retaliate.
The Three Gorges Dam, if completed, will be the world’s largest hydroelectric dam – what glory and what grandiosity! Probably it will be regarded as the Ninth Wonder of the World, closely following the Eighth – Qin Shihuang’s Tomb, with its tens of thousands of terra-cotta warriors in formidable battle array. Qin Shihuang, in the four decades of his reign, spared neither labour nor expense to build his splendid tomb, but he never knew that his dynasty would perish only four years after his death.