Category: China’s Dams

Deng Xiaoping’s double debt to the Chinese people

(September 10, 2013) On the dreadful night of June 4, 1989, when the students in Tiananmen Square were mowed down by the People’s Liberation Army, the path to another tragedy, the damming of the Yangtze, was laid, says Dai Qing, China’s most famous environmentalist and longtime advocate of freedom of speech.

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Giant landslide likely caused by Xiluodu Dam impoundment, says Chinese geologist

(July 30, 2013) Fan Xiao, a Chinese geologist and chief engineer of the Regional Geological Survey Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, says analysis of the recent landslide in Yunnan Province indicates that impoundment of the nearby Xiluodu Dam reservoir most likely caused the event and that more can be expected when the reservoir is filled again. Sharply rising or rapidly falling reservoir water levels pose a threat to geological stability, he says, and can trigger disaster.

Massive new dams remind China of human price of ‘tofu constructions’

(July 20, 2013) China is on the cusp of another dam-building binge. Nowhere is the aggressive dam push raising more eyebrows than in the country’s southwest. Last year, a report by the environmental group Probe International said of the 130 proposed dams on rivers in the region, nearly 50 per cent “are located in zones of high to very high seismic hazard.”

Officials from China’s Three Gorges Corporation visit troubled U.S. lock

(June 19, 2013) Officials from China’s Three Gorges Corporation and Project Construction Committee (TGPCC) paid a visit earlier this month to the troubled U.S. Chickamauga Lock in Tennessee as part of an information sharing exchange organized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) — responsible for the operation and maintenance of navigation locks on the Tennessee River. TGPCC, established by China’s State Council to oversee construction of the massive Three Gorges Dam project, has concerns regarding its own ship locks: some 733 cracks were reported to have appeared in the east and westbound channels of the Three Gorges dam’s five-step shiplock, along with a worrisome distortion that may have been caused by crustal plate movement, among other issues. The dam’s ambitious and intensely complex ship lift, slated for completion in 2015, has yet to be tested.

Uprooted

(June 14, 2013) Yang Yi’s surreal photo memoir of his childhood home, flooded for the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam project, received special mention as one of New York’s Best Weekend Art Events in May when it debuted at Galerie Richard. Its run ends tomorrow, June 15.

Small dams an even bigger dam problem, say researchers

(June 1, 2013) New research from Oregon State University reveals small dams are no easier on the environment than their larger counterparts and often present more of a threat to their surroundings. The comparison between 31 small dams built on tributaries to China’s Nu River and four large dams proposed for the main stem of the same river, found the effects of the smaller dams were worse for nine out of the 14 characteristics studied. Habitat loss and damage at several dam sites show that the environmental effects of small dams are often greater, sometimes by several orders of magnitude. “A lack of regulation paired with a dearth of communication between small dam projects in China allows for the effects to multiply and accumulate through several dam sites,” say researchers.

A decade on, controversy still surrounds China’s Three Gorges Dam

(May 31, 2013) Agence France-Presse reports that despite problems, China’s Three Gorges dam will be joined by a wave of new hydropower projects over the next decade — mostly spread across the country’s mountainous and earthquake prone southwest. The ambitious plans have left some in China’s growing environmental movement feeling powerless. Probe International Fellow, activist and journalist Dai Qing, who spent time in prison for her opposition to the Three Gorges dam, says the country’s environmentalists “continue to oppose the hydropower plans” but “they will be built no matter what local people say.”

The landslide story

(May 22, 2013) Chinese experts in landslide and geohazard protection fear debris flows, triggered by an epic 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, may pose a threat to the region for two decades. A tremendous amount of loose material from the landslides is suspended on hillslopes, ready to be washed away by rain. The potential for ongoing landslides and secondary hazards, such as flooding and blocked rivers, they argue, warrants further investigation.

Could dams be causing China’s earthquakes?

(April 24, 2013) Another article exploring the brewing debate over the cause or causes of the April 20 Lushan earthquake reports that the quake may have been an aftershock of Sichuan’s 2008 earthquake disaster, which some experts believe was triggered by the Zipingpu Dam reservoir. This issue of “reservoir-induced seismicity” is fast gaining attention as China, the most dammed nation in the world, is particularly at risk to the phenomenon. A 2011 Chinese study, for example, found China’s massive Three Gorges Dam had triggered around 3,000 earthquakes and numerous landslides in the reservoir region, representing a 30-fold increase in seismic activity in the area.