Three Gorges Probe

China’s assault on the environment

(March 6, 2006) Probe International’s Three Gorges dam investigative work highlighted.

Probe International’s investigative work on China’s Three Gorges dam is highlighted in the latest edition of The New York Review of Books, in Jonathan Mirsky’s review of Judith Shapiro’s Mao’s War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. An environmental politics professor at American University in Washington, Shapiro’s book examines the devastating impact of Maoist politics on China’s environment. Shapiro’s thesis “that the abuse of people and nature are often interrelated,” reveals how Mao tried to develop China by mobilizing the masses to carry through utopian mass development schemes. Mao’s greatest catastrophe, says Shapiro, was encouraging unchecked population growth – and a disastrous runner-up – the construction of big dams. To illustrate her theme of Communist China’s assault on the environment, Shapiro turns to the Three Gorges dam, which “critics have called a last-gasp monument to the Communist Party that must be understood as another of the ‘Maoist megaprojects’ both aimed at the mastery of nature and suppression of human freedoms.” The following is an extract from Jonathan Mirsky’s review, featuring Probe International:

According to an investigation by the Canadian organization Probe International, Beijing’s claims that the Three Gorges dam will protect the environment, generate electricity, and control floods are unsupported or false. The investigation is based on internal documents written by leading Chinese experts. One of them replies to a colleague worried about flooding: “We can sort this problem out by lowering the flood control to 135 meters, even though this would affect shipping on the river. But keep in mind, never, never let the public know this.” The same expert noted that the electricity generated by the dam, which receives large subsidies from the World Bank, is so expensive that customers will not be able to afford it. He estimated that so little money has been appropriated for environmental protection that it would now require $37 billion. In the meantime, he said, the situation is getting worse. We now read in the Chinese press of a plan that would have made the pharaohs quail: to transfer water from the Yangtze River hundreds of miles to North China plain, where decades of prodigal waste have lowered the water table beyond the reach of all but the most powerful pumps.

The New York Review of Books, March 6, 2006

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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