Three Gorges Probe

Editors Note 2nd Edition

This book is an updated and expanded edition of Damming The Three Gorges: What Dam Builders Don’t Want You To Know, a critique of a Canadian government-World Bank feasibility study of China’s Three Gorges Dam. Originally published in September 1990, this book exposed the flawed analyses and compromised calculations evident in the official justification of a large dam project. Since the first edition was published, others have discovered the same defects in other justifications of other large dam projects.

An independent review of the World Bank-financed Sardar Sarovar Dam on India’s Narmada River discovered, as did this book’s contributors, that the dam builders failed to employ adequate hydrologic data; that they did not properly consider the backwater effects of the dam, or the downstream impacts of the dam on the people, the estuary and fish stocks; that they exhibited gross delinquency in the handling of environmental matters; and that they failed to prove that the dam would perform as planned. “Assertions,” the independent reviewers revealed in their 1992 book entitled Sardar Sarovar: The Report of the Independent Review, “have been substituted for analysis.”

The importance of these two independent critiques cannot be overstated.

They have exposed a disturbing pattern of omissions, errors, and biases in the official justifications of the dam builders – flaws that have thrived under the cloak of secrecy that shielded them from the light of public scrutiny. Until these two independent critiques were published, the international dam builders – governments, corporations, and international aid agencies – could justify their dams in the name of development and with claims to the national interest, without fear of challenge from a public kept ignorant of their calculations. Now these two critiques have exposed that the dam builders could justify their dams only by denigrating the cultural values of the people affected, by discounting current economic activity in the ecosystems they propose to destroy, by treating the environment as dispensable, by making unscientific and uneconomic choices, and most important, by carelessly or over-confidently assigning risks to others who would not assume those risks for themselves.

The relevance of these two independent critiques go far beyond the Three Gorges and Sardar Sarovar dams, making sense of the bad technical and financial record of large dams around the world, and challenging the wisdom of other large dams, unbuilt but on the drawing boards of the international agencies.

Events have made a second edition of Damming The Three Gorges a necessity.

On April 3, 1992, China’s National People’s Congress gave formal, though not unanimous, approval to the Three Gorges Dam. In its drive for international financing, the Chinese authorities cite the Canadian feasibility study which recommended that the dam would be safe and beneficial. The independent experts who have contributed to this book concluded the opposite: the Canadian feasibility study failed to prove that the Three Gorges Dam was either safe or beneficial.

In the interest of an informed public debate, we reprint this second edition of Damming The Three Gorges: What Dam Builders Don’t Want You To Know. A new chapter on the problem of sedimentation – which threatens to cripple the dam – has been added, as has a chronicle of the significant political events leading to the approval of the Three Gorges Dam on the mighty Yangtze.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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