Three Gorges Probe

China’s improving energy supply stokes criticism of Three Gorges

The Wall Street Journal
June 3, 2006

Shanghai, China- Underlying mounting criticism of China’s Three Gorges Dam is a fundamental shift in the economics of the country’s energy industry. When China signed off on the massive project in 1992, it believed chronic power shortages would fuel endless demand for the dam’s electricity. The logic appeared sound: Rapid growth was creating energy bottlenecks and forcing up power prices- problems that were starting to hurt the economy. In 1997, officials quietly decided to go one step further and flood the dam’s 350 mile-long reservoir as quickly as possible. That meant water would rise to the upper limit in six years instead of the 10 originally planned, maximizing output of electricity and speeding repayment of the $24 billion tab. Now the decision is stirring a stom of protest and increasing scrutiny of a project already tainted by reports of widespread corruption and environmental damage. The latest opposition came two months ago, when 53 leading Chinese engineers and academics, including several participants in the dam’s original feasibility study, sent a protest letter to China’s leaders. Just made public, the petition said China should reconsider rapidly flooding the reservoir because it could increase sediment buildup and is forcing an additional 350,000 people to be relocated. "We’re not opposed to the project itself, but we do want to see that the dam is built correctly and that damage is minimized," says Lu Qinkan, the 87-year-old author of the petition.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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