Three Gorges Probe

Brazilian megadam shaping up to be the next Three Gorges disaster

(March 3, 2011) Time Magazine released a story today, comparing the Brazilian Belo Monte Dam to the nefarious Three Gorges Dam.  Though the court ordered construction to cease over environmental concerns, the battle is far from over.

Below is an excerpt from the story, and a link to the full article.

Time Magazine, March 3, 2011, “If you must build a megadam: lessons for Brazil from China,” Krista Mahr

From where I sit in Hong Kong, this sounds pretty familiar. In 1994, when China started construction on the controversial Three Gorges Dam, Beijing, too, recognized the urgency of generating massive amounts of power to fuel its economic growth. Slated to be complete by 2015, Three Gorges is now the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant, pushed through by the government over loud objections from environmentalists who worried about the impact of such an large-scale endeavor on the land and people around it. In its first phases, Three Gorges displaced an estimated 1.2 million people, flooding two cities, over 100 towns, and ancient structures in a narrow lake that is over 400 miles long.

But after insisting everything would be okay, in 2007, the government owned up that everything wasn’t really so okay after all. That year Beijing announced that up to 4 million more people may have to be moved by 2020 to ensure the environmental safety of the dam after officials announced it might be causing “hidden disasters,” from widespread drinking water pollution to landslides and other “geological disasters.” For many activists, the alarming concession was a long time coming; environmentalists who had bitterly opposed the dam for decades were surprised to hear the government finally echo their concerns about creating a reservoir on geologically unstable ground, including two faults.

Soon after the reservoir was filled and electricity generation began in 2003, a major rockslide in region caused monstrous waves that killed 14 people. A series of other geologic disasters have continued to plague the region since. Part of the problem was that people displaced by the dam construction moved to hilly regions in the region where they cleared land and trees for farming. The deforestation and soil erosion helped contribute to devastating floods along the Yangtze in the late 1990s, which killed thousands of people. Officials subsequently gave incentives for people to move yet again to further provinces to ease pressure on the land. The people who stayed were constantly in fear of their houses literally sliding out from underneath them.

Click here for the full story.

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