China's Dams

After Three Gorges Dam: What have we learned?

A two-day symposium focused on China’s Three Gorges Dam convened scientists and experts from China and elsewhere for a post-project assessment of the world’s largest hydro dam at the University of California, Berkeley.



April 13-14, 2012


112 Wurster Hall University of California Berkeley

The Three Gorges Dam was completed on the Yangtze River in 2009. At 185 meters high, the dam inundated 1,084 square kilometers of land, displacing at least 1.4 million people. On 18 May 2011, the State Council of the Chinese Government, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, officially stated the urgent need to solve problems caused by the project’s escalating, social, environmental, and public safety impacts. This confirmation gives credence to the findings of experts, both within China and in other countries, who have long expressed concerns about the cumulative impacts of the world’s largest megaproject. These scientists, engineers and economists have not had the opportunity to present their evaluations together in an open forum.

China is at a critical point in its development path. It has invested heavily in large scale infrastructure projects like the Three Gorges Dam. Rapid economic development has overpowered concern for long term environmental and social costs. The Three Gorges Dam is not only a major infrastructure project in its own right – affecting the lives of 400 million people living in the Yangtze Valley; it is also a test case of how China can plan, execute and mitigate projects that transform its environment.

The symposium will convene invited experts both from within China, and outside, who are knowledgeable about the planning and environmental assessments of large dams, particularly the Three Gorges Project. We invite speakers to share their evaluations of anticipated and surprising project impacts, future long term impacts, and recommended management actions to minimize adverse impacts. These ideas and analyses could help shape further massive investment in new hydropower dams, whether in China or other developing countries.

[Access the original symposium event homepage here, with more links and additional resource information added]

Press release available here

Symposium Proceedings

Summary of the Symposium available (.pdf 5.1MB).

Symposium Format

The symposium included presentations by twelve scientists and experts from China followed by a panel discussion with the public.


See below

Scope of the Conference

This symposium will explore the following four questions:

  • What have we learned through the planning, construction and monitoring of the Three Gorges Dam?
  • What are the expected impacts over the next 50 years and beyond?
  • What can be done to mitigate adverse impacts?
  • How can this experience inform improved project planning and management for other large hydropower dam projects?


LI Rui (Opening Statement Speaker)Li Rui is one of the most important voices affecting decisions on the Three Gorges Project. In the 1950s, when supporters tried to launch the project, Li, who was at the time assistant to the minister and head of the Hydropower Construction Bureau in the Ministry of Electric Power and later, deputy minister of Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power, and Mao’s secretary, argued with Lin Yishan (Director of Changjiang Water Resource Committee and one of the most important supporters of the project), and persuaded Mao and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to postpone the project. In the 1980s, as the Three Gorges Dam project was resurrected, Li Rui, who returned to the position of deputy minister and then served as deputy minister of the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, renewed his opposition to the dam during the feasibility study. Even after the decision to build the dam was made, he continued to oppose the project publicly and appealed for the decision to be reversed. Li Rui is the highest level government official to raise serious concerns about the project’s impact and his arguments continue to influence opinions about the Three Gorges Project and related issues in China today.

Baruch BOXER

Baruch Boxer is a Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University, and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University. He earned AM (1957) and PhD (1961) degrees at the University of Chicago, and retired in 1999 from Rutgers as a professor of geography, human ecology, and environmental sciences. He was also a visiting scholar for nine years at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC, working on China water science and policy issues. He is currently investigating several aspects of technical communication problems in Chinese water engineering and other work in Africa.

CHEN Daqing

Daqing Chen is a Doctor of Hydrobiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and now a Researcher and the vice superintendent of Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. He has directed research on the impact of the Three Gorges Dam on fish population characteristics, and published in Fishery Resources and Environment monitoring of the Three Gorges Project, a magazine organized by the State Environmental Protection Administration of China.

CHEN Guojie

Chen Guojie is a Professor and Senior Researcher with the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Chengdu. Since the 1980s, Professor Chen has focused his research on the environmental impacts of China’s Three Gorges Dam, including resettlement issues related to the project and has published extensively on this topic in both Chinese and English. He is a member of the Advisory Body on Science and Technology, the Expert Group of the Study Center for Regional Sustainable Development, CAS, and an advisor to the Committee on Environmental Protection of the Sichuan Provincial Government. Professor Chen played a key role in official environmental impact assessments of the Three Gorges Dam Project.

CHEN Zhongyuan

Prof. Zhongyuan Chen at East China Normal University (ECNU) is a river-coastal geomorphologist. Before joining ECNU he was a researcher at the Smithsonian from 1990 to 1993. His research interest focuses on the sedimentological and geomorphological processes of delta-coast in response to climate change, sea level rise, source-sink interaction, and human intervention His primary study sites are the Yangtze and the Nile, and he is also the leader of Asia megadelta project (APN-sponsored, 2003-2009). Professor Chen has published >150 peer-reviewed papers and edited 8 special issues in international journals.

CHENG Xiaotao

Professor Cheng Xiaotao is the Executive Director of the Research Center on Flood and Drought Disaster Reduction at the Ministry of Water Resources. He is also the Vice Chief Engineer of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR), and the Executive Chief Editor of the Journal of Hydraulic engineering. Professor Cheng’s specializations include River Engineering and Hydraulics, Numerical Analysis in Hydraulic System, and Flood and Drought Risk Management. Professor Cheng’s obtained his Doctor of Engineering degree from Kyoto University.

DAI Qing

Dai Qing is a Probe International Fellow, activist and journalist who published Yangtze! Yangtze! in 1989, a book of essays and interviews with Chinese experts highlighting the concerns about the environmental and social effects of the dam, followed by The River Dragon Has Come! in 1998. She has been honored with Fellowships from Harvard, Columbia, and the Australian National University, with the International PEN Award for Freedom, and the Goldman Environmental Prize.

FAN Xiao

Fan Xiao is an Honorary Professor at Chengdu University of Technology and chief engineer at the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau. He has surveyed and researched geological and hydrologic conditions in western China for more than 30 years, focusing on China’s geological heritage and environment, as well as issues of environmental protection. Fan is a member of the Geological Society of China, the Seismological Society of Sichuan Province, and is a contributor to the Chinese National Geography magazine. He has published a number of articles in English on China’s hydro dams in relation to dam safety, particularly in regard to earthquakes and landslides.

GUO Yushan

Guo Yushan is the founder and director of Transition Institute. An academic from Nanjian University of Posts and Telecommunications and the Graduate School of Beijing University, Guo went on to found Gongment Group (aka, Open Constitution Initiative) in 2003. A Beijing-based NGO, staffed by human rights lawyers and academics, Gongmeng performed legal research and pro bono service for politically important cases. That same year, Guo was honoured by the Guangzhou-based liberal magazine, Southern People Weekly, as one of China’s Top Ten Leaders of the Younger Generation in 2009. The Transition Institute is the host of, a website that covers all aspects of the Three Gorges Dam project.

REN Xinghui

Ren Xinghui is a researcher with the Beijing-based think tank, Transition Institute. A law graduate, Ren’s special area of inquiry is the Three Gorges Dam; he also manages the Civic Transition Panel for Transition Institute and is the editor-in-chief of (aka, Three Gorges Observation), a Three Gorges Dam web portal offering an independent evaluation of various issues related to the project. The Transition Institute is currently preparing a report detailing the dam project’s history, expenditures and current status.


Doctor Fawu Wang graduated from Department of Engineering Geology of Changchun College of Geology, China in 1986. His graduation thesis is about a large landslide in the Three Gorges Water Reservoir area. That is the start point of his study on landslide disaster in Three Gorges. During his Master course from 1986 to 1989, he concentrated his study on the Xintan landslide, which occurred in June 1985 and stopped the voyage of the Yangtze River at that part for one week. At this period, he participated the field exanimation on potential landslide disaster organized by Chinese Central government as an observer. After working for 5 years in Changchun University of Earth Sciences, in 1995 he came to Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI), Kyoto University, Japan to purchase higher degree. He got the PhD degree in 1999 with a dissertation on rapid and long runout landslide. After working in Dept. of Civil Engineering, National Kanazawa University for 4 years, and Research Center on Landslides, DPRI, Kyoto University for 6 years, from 2010 he is an associate professor in Dept. of Geoscience, National Shimane University, Japan. In 2004-2006, he established a monitoring system on Shuping landslide in the Three Gorges Water Reservoir, and published a book: Landslide Disaster Mitigation in Three Gorges Reservoir, China, with Springer in 2009. He continued his research on landslide in Three Gorges Area for more than two decades.


Professor Weng Lida was born in 1944 and graduated from university in 1965. He joined the Yangtze Valley Water Resources Protection Bureau (YVWRPB) in 1978 and worked in the agency for more than 30 years engaging in planning, monitoring, assessment and management of the water resources protection of the Yangtze River. As a visiting scholar sent by Chinese government, he has two-year working experiences in Canada Centre for Inland Waters and the National Water Research Institute during 1981 ~ 1983. Since 1993 he was the Director General of YVWRPB until January 2005. Then he became the Secretary General of the Yangtze Forum until 2007. He has been the vice-director of the Environmental Water Conservancy Commitee of Chinese Hydraulic Engineering Society and member of the Science and Technical Committee of the Changjiang Water Resources Commission since 1994.

YANG Shi-Lun

Yang Shi-Lun is a Professor at East China Normal University (ECNU). He earned Ph D at ECNU in 1988. Since 2002, he has published more than 10 papers on the sedimentary impacts of the Three Gorges Dam in Journal of Hydrology (2002), Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (2003), Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (2004), Journal of Geophysical Research (2005, 2007), Geophysical Research Letters (2006, 2007), Quaternary International (2008), Global and Planetary Change (2011), Estuaries and Coasts (2012), and Geomorphology (2012). These impacts include deposition in the Three Gorges Reservoir, downstream riverbed erosion and bed sediment coarsening sediment exchange between lake Dongting and the main Yangtze River, sediment discharge to the sea, suspended sediment concentration in the estuary and coastal waters, and delta geomorphology.

ZHANG Jingsheng

Zhang Jingsheng is Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and formerly was the Vice President of the Technical Committee China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC); Vice President of the International Hydropower Association (IHA); Vice President of the International Committee On Large Dams (ICOLD); Vice President of the Chinese National Committee On Large Dams; Deputy Director of the Hydropower Development in the Department Ministry of Energy; and Chief Engineer of the General Construction Bureau in the Ministry of Water Resources and Electricity.

ZHOU Hua-wei

Hua-wei Zhou is the Joe Pevehouse endowed Chair and professor in geophysics at TTU since 2007. He was a professor at University of Houston from 1989 to 2007, and the associate director of the Allied Geophysical Laboratories at UH during 1998-2007. His research interests include seismo-tectonics, marine geophysics, and improving seismic imaging solutions. He has authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers and many presentations at international meetings.


Matt Kondolf is a fluvial geomorphologist and environmental planner, specializing in environmental river management and restoration. He is Professor of Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches courses in hydrology, river restoration, environmental science, and Mediterranean-climate landscapes, and serves as Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. He is currently the Clarke Scholar at the Institute for Water Resources of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Washington, and formerly served on the Environmental Advisory Board to the Chief of the Corps.


Phil Williams is the Beatrix Farrand Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning and formerly was President of Philip Williams & Associates a consulting firm specializing in integrated engineering, geomorphology and natural resource management solutions to problems in river and estuary management. He has a Ph.D. in sediment hydraulics from University College London. During the 1990’s he was one of the experts who reviewed the Canadian sponsored Three Gorges feasibility study, this review was published in Damming the Three Gorges.


GAO Yongxuan

Yongxuan Gao has recently obtained her Ph.D in water resources engineering at Tufts University, Massachusetts. Her research focus and expertise are environmental flow, water conflicts resolution and alleviation of poverty through better water resources management. She also has a master’s degree in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has several years of experiences as an environmental engineer in China and in the US.

Thomas GOLD

Thomas Gold is a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Executive Director of the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has published on youth, popular culture, social connections (guanxi), the urban micro entrepreneurial class, and civil society in China, as well as social, political and economic change in Taiwan. He has served on the Boards of Pacific Environment and China Dialogue.

HSING You-tien

You-tien Hsing is Professor of Geography at UC Berkeley, and the author of Making Capitalism in China: The Taiwan Connection (Oxford University Press, 1998) and The Great Urban Transformation: Politics of Land and Property in China (Oxford University Press, 2010). She also co-edited (with Ching Kwan Lee) “Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism” (Routledge, 2010). Her current research concerns the politics of preserving culture and nature in China’s northwest border regions.


Dr. Han-Bin Liang is the president of WRECO. He received both his master’s and doctorate degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (1988) and his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering (Hydraulics) from the National Taiwan University (1981). Dr. Liang has over 27 years of experience in environmental hydrology, hydraulic and coastal engineering. His academic background focused on riverine, estuarine and coastal hydrodynamics, and he has applied this knowledge to numerous large-scale engineering projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, Dr. Liang is working on projects involving flood control, floodplain management, stormwater management, wetland restoration, sediment transport, bridge hydraulics, scour analysis and roadway drainage for various federal, state and local agencies. He founded WRECO in 1995, and the firm has since been involved in more than 500 infrastructure projects and grown to a staff of 35 with offices in Walnut Creek and Oakland. Dr. Liang visited Three Gorges Dam twice during its construction: in 1994 and 1997.

Katherine SUDING

Dr. Katharine Suding is an associate professor of the department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on biodiversity, invasion ecology, plant-soil interactions, environmental change, and threshold dynamics. She has been involved with wide-ranging ecological research, with a particular emphasis on experimental manipulations and quantitative data analysis, since receiving her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1999. She came to UC Berkeley from UC Irvine in 2009, where she was in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. At Berkeley, she teaches classes in restoration ecology and is a professor of restoration ecology in the UC Agricultural Experimental Station.


Richard Louis EDMONDS

Richard Louis Edmonds currently is a Visiting Professor in the Geographical Studies Program and an Associate Member, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago. With a long-standing interest in East Asian environmental studies and historical geography, his background includes language study and research in Taiwan and Japan as well as teaching at the University of Hong Kong (1981-1985), The School of Oriental and African Studies (1985-2001), and King’s College, London (2001-2003). Additionally, he taught at the Universities of Macau (1993-1994), Aveiro (Portugal 1998-2002), and Duisburg-Essen, (Germany 2011). While in London, he concurrently held the position as Editor of The China Quarterly (1996-2002). Dr. Edmonds has worked on environmental projects in China for the European Union and for the Chinese government. He first wrote about the debates surrounding the Three Gorges Dam in the early 1990s and continues to write and teach about environmental matters in China.


Dr. Robert Goodland served as the World Bank Group’s environmental adviser from 1978 for 23 years, where he drafted and persuaded the Bank to adopt most of its mandatory social and environmental safeguard policies. He worked on the social and environmental impacts of Itaipu, Tucurui and other big dams. He advised the Three Gorges ESIA team in the 1980s. He helped create the World Commission on Dams in Cape Town. In 2001, he was appointed Technical Director of the independent “Extractive Industry Review” of the World Bank’s oil, gas and mining portfolio ( The Library of Congress (Loc.Gov) lists 39 of his books. He was elected chair of the Ecological Society of America (Metropolitan), and President of the International Association for Impact Assessment. Last year he was awarded IUCN’s Coolidge Medal for outstanding lifetime achievement in environmental conservation.


Lynn Highland is a Geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landslide Program, Geologic Hazards Science Center, located in Golden, Colorado. Lynn began her career as an Anthropologist for the USGS Earthquake Program and after obtaining a Masters degree in Geography from the University of Colorado, Boulder, became Coordinator of the USGS National Landslide Information Center (NLIC). The NLIC provides outreach support for the USGS Landslide Program, and is a resource for landslide education and information.


Scott Nicholson supports USACE Headquarters as a policy advisor and analyst with the Civil Works Office of Water Project Review (OWPR). He was formerly a Civil Works Planning Manager for the Pacific Ocean Division Regional Integration Team and supports HQ Planning and Program initiatives. He has successfully managed large, complex planning studies for the Department of Interior, EPA, and the Corps Civil and Military Programs. Mr. Nicholson is a PhD researcher with a focus on engineering policy and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley with an MS in Civil Engineering, Masters of City Planning (MCP) and a Masters of Landscape Architecture (MLA). He worked as a Staff Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has led complex state and federal programs and projects through inter-governmental planning and construction efforts including ones recognized by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and the Army.


Jeanny Wang MILES

Jeanny Wang Miles is an environmental engineer with degrees in civil engineering, forestry, and environmental sciences from the University of California at Berkeley and Davis. Ms. Miles has worked on a broad range of environmental impact, water supply planning, oil and gas development, and river/lake/wetlands conservation in the US, Asia, Europe and Caribbean. From 1995-2000, Jeanny started and managed Pacific Environment’s China Program and coordinated the UNDP/GEF China Wetlands Biodiversity and Sustainable Use Project. In 2001, Ms. Miles reviewed environmental and community safeguards for international development bank projects for the USAID Policy Bureau. Ms. Miles is the founder and CEO of EcoWang, a water and environmental consulting company based in Utah and California.


112 Wurster Hall, University of California, Berkeley
Friday, April 13
Matt Kondolf, Chair, UC LAEP
Li Rui, former Vice Minister for Water Resources, read by Li Nanyang
0945 OVERVIEW Three Gorges Threads and Links
Baruch Boxer, visiting scholar, Stanford University
1005 OVERVIEW Planning the Three Gorges Dam
Zhang Jinsheng, visiting Professor Tsinghua University
1045 BREAK
1055 SESSION 1 Impacts on flows and floods
Moderator: Gao Yongxuan, NHI
Discussant: Scott Nicholson, USACE-HQ, UC Berkeley CEEImpacts of Three Gorges’ Reservoir on Middle-Lower Yangtze River Drought
Fan Xiao, Sichuan Geology BureauChanges in Flood Risk on the Yangtze River Floodplain
Cheng Xiaotao, IWHR
1200 LUNCH(Related Events: Guest Presentation, Dai Qing)
1400 SESSION 2 Geomorphic Impacts
Moderator: Hsing You-Tien, UC Geography
Discussant: Matt Kondolf, UC Berkeley LAEPReservoir Sedimentation and Impacts on Downstream Sediment Discharge
Yang Shi-Lun, East China Normal UniversityImpacts on Fluvial Morphology of the Middle and Lower Yangtze Basin
Chen Zhongyuan, East China Normal UniversityEstuarine and Coastal Sedimentary and Morphological Response
Yang Shi-Lun, East China Normal University
1630 OPEN RECEPTION Wurster Gallery (no host bar)
Saturday, April 14
0900 SESSION 3 Geologic Hazard Impacts
Moderator: Han-Bin Liang, WRECO
Discussant: Lynn Highland, USGSLandslide Disaster: Reorganization, Mitigation and Prediction
Wang Fawu, Shimane UniversityReservoir Induced Seismicity and Earthquake Potential of the Region
Zhou Hua Wei, Texas Tech University
1030 BREAK
1045 SESSION 4 Environmental Impacts
Moderator: Katherine Suding, ESPM Berkeley
Discussant: Robert Goodland, ex World BankEnvironmental Impacts after Impounding
Weng Lida, Yangtze Valley Water Resources Protection BureauImpacts on Fishery Resources of the Yangtze River
Chen Daqing, Yangtze River Fisheries Research Institute
1200 LUNCH Wurster Courtyard
1330 SESSION 5 Socioeconomic Impacts
Moderator: Tom Gold, UC Sociology
Discussant: Richard Edmonds, University of ChicagoThe Real Social Costs of the Three Gorges Dam
Gou Yushan, Transition InstituteIssues Associated with Resettlement
Chen Goujie, Institute of Mountain Disasters and EnvironmentWhose Three Gorges?
Ren Xinghui, Transition Institute
1500 BREAK
Discussion of symposium key findings, all speakers

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