Dams and Landslides

The bills pile high for operators of Three Gorges

(November 19, 2009) A recent report by Chris Buckley in Reuters offers more evidence that the final price tag for the Three Gorges dam will be far higher than officials admit. According to Buckley, a draft plan prepared for the central government says a backlog of problems created by the construction of the dam require an additional $24.9-billion to solve.

The plan says that most of this money will go to supporting residents forced to relocate as result of the dam’s construction—many of them poor farmers, pushed to hastily built cities.

And, according to the report, governments in the Chongqing municipality and Hubei province—which cover stretches of the reservoir and downstream—have both complained that too little has been spent on people affected by rising waters.

“During the construction period of the Three Gorges project, investment in a range of projects in the reservoir area was far from enough, and the lack of funding for the many remaining problems has not been properly resolved,” Reuters quotes the report.

While the recent report from Reuters highlights the problems with funding the Three Gorges dam—the point that the project is over-budget and officials are acting coy about its true cost is nothing new. Probe International reported that the dam, which officials say cost $27-billion, might actually cost as much as $88-billion.

Furthermore, as officials continue to try and bring the dam’s reservoir to its maximum height of 175 metres—so they can produce more electricity—drought and the threat of landslides caused by destablized slopes have made full scale operation of the dam impossible. Eventually—as scientists and critics of the dam have been pointing out for decades—the dam may never operate as planned and Chinese taxpayers will continue to pay for the unforeseen costs.

Brady Yauch, Probe International, November 19, 2009

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