(May 16, 2014) Lake Poyang, the largest freshwater lake in China, has in the past decade suffered record low water levels and its worst drought in 60 years. Although uneven rainfall patterns and industry on the lake are partly behind the decline in volume, the Three Gorges Dam has emerged as a major cause of the lake’s shocking dry-up. On a recent trip to China, Mu Lan, the editor of Probe International’s Chinese Three Gorges Probe news service, explored the link between Poyang’s crisis and the country’s hydro colossus.
(May 16, 2014) Mu Lan, the editor of our Chinese Three Gorges Probe news service, documents in pictures the decline of China’s largest freshwater lake on the southern bank of the Yangtze River in east China’s Jiangxi Province for his report, “Is the Three Gorges Dam to blame for extreme drought in the Lake Poyang area?”
(April 21, 2014) China’s roving corruption crackdown has uncovered nepotism, shady property deals and dodgy bidding procedures at the country’s state-owned Three Gorges Dam operator, Three Gorges Corporation. The news has reignited public anger over a project funded by a special levy paid for by Chinese citizens and has sparked speculation that President Xi Jinping is using Three Gorges as a way to target two of China’s biggest “tigers”.
(April 11, 2014) A report representing the most comprehensive economic analysis of large dams ever undertaken has dealt a stunning blow to the behemoths of hydropower. But will its findings be enough to curb a new wave in mega-dam construction? Unlikely, says Probe International.
(April 9, 2014) Another earthquake has struck China’s seismically hazardous southwestern region in the same vicinity as one of the country’s mega-dams. Chinese geologist and environmentalist Fan Xiao says there is a “high probability” the Xiluodu dam, China’s second and the world’s third biggest hydropower power plant, triggered the quake.
(April 7, 2014) Chinese geologist and environmentalist Fan Xiao says the recent quakes that struck central China’s Hubei Province in Zigui county — “the first county of the Three Gorges Dam” due to its proximity to the project site — signal that the seismic threat posed by Three Gorges Dam is at its most critical stage now. Reservoir-induced seismicity (RIS) is most likely to occur within a few years, even a decade after initial filling of a dam reservoir to its highest level, due to the time it takes for reservoir water to penetrate deep into seismic faults and fissures before it triggers seismic activity. A 2010 study revealed seismic monitors around the Three Gorges Dam reservoir and in Hubei Province registered 3,429 earthquakes between June of 2003 (when inundation of the reservoir began) and December 31, 2009: a 30-fold increase in seismic frequency over the pre-dam period.
(April 1, 2014) A magnitude-4.7 earthquake hit Zigui county in central China’s Hubei Province last Sunday, around 23 kilometres from the Three Gorges Dam site location, several days after a magnitude-4.3 tremor was felt early Thursday morning about 30 kilometres from the dam. Authorities say the dam was not affected but they are monitoring the situation. There have been no reports of casualties or property damage, although news coverage has noted an increase in Chinese experts who support the speculation that the project itself is the cause of local seismic activity.
(April 1, 2014) Li Wufeng, the high-level Chinese minister who died after falling from the 6th floor of his office last month, once briefly served as the assistant general manager of China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), the recent target of a two-month corruption probe that angered the Chinese public with its revelations of bidding irregularities, bribery and excessive spending by corporation officials. Li’s sudden death has caused much speculation. A CTGPC insider is quoted in this report as saying meddling by CTGPC leaders and their families in bidding for company projects and interest transfers was an “open secret” and that “even individual retired cadres were involved in the countless corruptions. Now everyone at the CTGPC is in a panic, because everyone was involved.”
(March 26, 2014) China’s central government replaces leadership at state-owned Three Gorges Corp. following graft probe. Signals suggest “it is probable there will be further investigations into corruption inside the corporation,” says Probe International’s Patricia Adams.
(February 3, 2014) Chinese geologist Fan Xiao investigates once again if the impoundment of a large dam reservoir triggered a series of earthquakes in the seismically active southwest region of China? Based on data collected by China Seismic Information (CSI), Mr. Fan says, ‘Yes’. Not only were the November 22, 2013, seismic events recorded in Sichuan, China not naturally occurring or isolated incidents, he says the region should prepare for stronger, “even destructive earthquakes” as a result of further impoundment.
(January 7, 2014) China’s growing involvement in hydropower development in the region boosts clout but also leads to allegations of poor corporate responsibility. “There is great resistance to dam-building in Latin America and special worry about Chinese dams because of the opaque nature of China’s decision-making and poor quality in these dams,” says Pat Adams of Probe International.
(December 20, 2013) High-profile Chinese geologist Fan Xiao — and the author of several reports for Probe International — notes with interest the rush by China’s state media, and the country’s official seismological agency, to dismiss a link between the 5.1-magnitude Badong County earthquake on Monday and the Three Gorges Dam reservoir. A dismissal that runs contrary to common sense and the basic facts of seismic analysis, says Mr. Fan, who believes reservoir-induced-seismicity (RIS), triggered by impoundment of the massive dam, was likely behind the recent quake and could induce stronger earthquakes in the region.
(December 16, 2013) A 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck a mountainous and populous area of China’s Hubei Province today, 100 kilometres from the Three Gorges Dam site. Officials have been quick to reassure the public that the dam has remained intact and is operating normally after the event, which occurred at 1:04 p.m. in Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Badong County. Aftershocks and quake-triggered landslides are expected. What more could there be to this story?
(November 12, 2013) China’s current fever for hydro development is such that even its unparalleled Three Gorges mega-dam now ranks as a mere fraction of its long-term dam agenda, reports Charles Lewis for Yale Environment 360. While China’s need for energy is undisputed, its emphasis on dam construction risks an irreversible legacy of damage the country may never recover from and flies in the face of its present Five Year Plan to develop clean energy, reduce pollution, and protect the environment, says Lewis. Echoing Probe International’s coverage of the innumerable threats posed by construction on such an unprecedented scale, Lewis presents here a valuable and succinct overview of the dangers China’s dam fever represents to its waterways, ecosystems, agriculture and fisheries, traditional livelihoods, species survival and even to its geological stability, as Probe International’s alarming 2012 findings revealed.
(October 30, 2013) In April 2012, Liu Bai, a retired journalist dedicated to exposing the plight of Three Gorges Dam migrants and the project’s resettlement legacy of shattered lives, set out to discover what had happened to the first group of migrants who were moved from their homes in the ancient town of Dachang, in Wushan County, Chongqing Municipality, and resettled elsewhere around 11 years ago to make way for the world’s largest dam. What Liu Bai did not expect to find at the other end was that the resettlement of these migrants had not stuck! The majority of this first group of migrants had in fact returned home.