China's Dams

Press Release: What have we learned? After Three Gorges Dam

(March 27, 2012) Probe International is cosponsoring an upcoming two-day symposium on the impacts of the Three Gorges Dam with the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, at the University of California, Berkeley. The symposium will gather scientists and experts from China, and elsewhere, to discuss emerging problems with the world’s largest electricity-generating plant in order to mitigate harm and to inform future investments in China’s power sector. The symposium will be held on April 13th and 14th, at Wurster Hall, University of California, Berkeley.

A post-project assessment of the worlds largest hydro dam

Probe International is cosponsoring with the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, at the University of California, Berkeley the first, open, post-project assessment of Chinas Three Gorges Dam. The event, which will include presentations by Chinese experts on the benefits and costs of the Three Gorges Dam, will feature longtime Probe International Fellow and Three Gorges Dam critic, Dai Qing, as a guest speaker, as well as a number of contributors to Probe Internationals 20-year-long monitor of the Three Gorges Dam project.

Three years ago the world’s largest hydroelectric dam was completed at Three Gorges on the Yangtze, inundating a 700-km reservoir, and displacing at least 1.4 million people and potentially affecting the lives of 400 million people living downstream. Because of its social and environmental impacts, the decision to build this project was bitterly contested within China.

China is now at a critical point in its development path. Over the last three decades it has invested heavily in large-scale infrastructure projects like the Three Gorges Dam, choosing rapid development as its priority. Now, as the long-term environmental and social impacts and economic costs of this policy escalate, the Chinese government has started to acknowledge the need to address them.

On May 18, 2011 the State Council of the Chinese Government, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, issued a statement expressing the urgent need to solve problems caused by the Three Gorges Dam’s massive social, environmental, and public safety impacts.

This official statement has given credibility to the long-standing concerns of experts both within China, and in other countries, about the potential consequences of the world’s largest megaproject. These scientists, engineers and economists have not previously had the opportunity to present their evaluations together in an open forum.

This symposium will convene invited experts both from within China, and outside, who are knowledgeable on the planning and environmental assessments of large dams – particularly the Three Gorges Project  to share their evaluations of what anticipated and unanticipated project impacts have occurred, what future long-term impacts are likely to occur, and what actions can be undertaken to minimize adverse impacts. These ideas and analyses could help shape the debate within China, concerning its current massive investment in new hydro dams, as well as influence decisions on dams that China is building in other countries.

With this up-to-date information on new developments related to the Three Gorges, we anticipate this symposium will attract the interest of a range of participants, including professionals interested in water resources planning, scholars interested in China, media interested in science and development, and NGOs interested in the future of China’s environmental policies.

The Three Gorges Dam has become a test case of how, or whether, China can develop the appropriate planning, legal, and economic institutions to ensure future infrastructure projects promote environmentally sustainable growth.

The symposium will include presentations by 12 scientists and experts from China followed by panel and public discussion.

The agenda will include the following presentations:

  • The history and context of the Three Gorges Dam
  • Planning the Three Gorges Dam
  • Potential impacts of hydro development on Yangtze River flows
  • What can the Three Gorges Dam teach us?
  • Geomorphic impacts
  • Impacts on floods
  • Geologic hazard impacts
  • Environmental impacts
  • Socioeconomic impacts

Registration is now open. All attendees must register. Registration closes April 9, 2012.

For the symposium website, see:

For more information about the Symposium, contact:   

Dr. Philip B.Williams
Beatrix Farrand Distinguished Visiting Professor
Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
University of California, Berkeley
Email:; mobile: 1-415-215-4840

Patricia Adams
Executive Director, Probe International, Canada
Tel. 1-416-964-9223, ext. 227 (office); mobile 1-416-523-6834

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