Category: China’s Dams

New action guide targets Chinese dam construction

(November 29, 2012) As the most dammed country in the world and the largest exporter of dams abroad, China ranks as a hydropower-producing powerhouse with a wealth of experience that should inspire reassurance. The opposite is often the case, however, given China’s disregard for international social and environmental standards, both at home and overseas. A new action guide produced by the US-based environmental NGO, International Rivers Network, aims to help watchdogs of China’s ‘going out’ projects in their efforts to ensure safety and the rights of local communities affected by Chinese dam construction.

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As Wen Jiabao departs, China’s dam plans to accelerate

(November 21, 2012) As populist Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao prepares to retire, China’s new leadership is already looking at an aggressive plan to ramp up hydro capacity, as part of its ambitious 2020 energy goals. Under Wen, whose common touch earned him the nickname ‘Grandpa Wen’, a number of projects were shelved, including a series of dams on Yunnan’s untouched, UNESCO-protected Nu River – this is now slated for construction. The following Reuters report, by David Stanway, looks at the prospect of a renewed dam push in a country already struck by development fever. A tough sell, he notes, as an increasingly affluent middle-class – also the drivers of China’s consumption boom – push back against China’s “growth at all costs” economic model.

Mega-dams in China’s earthquake zones could have “disastrous consequences”

(October 31, 2012) “Earthquake Hazards and Large Dams in Western China,” the Probe International report authored by geologist John Jackson, has set China’s academic and industry circles astir. As the debate over Jackson’s findings heats up, the respected Caixin Media magazine, New Century Weekly, looks at both sides of the debate and the specific issues Jackson’s explosive report has raised.

A disconcerting beauty

(October 15, 2012) Photographer Nadav Kander has documented the transformation of China’s famed Yangtze River by its infamous Three Gorges Dam since construction began in 2006. Many of his pictures contrast people as ant-like subjects against the enormity of the Yangtze itself and its dramatic insubordination to the dam’s rising infrastructure, at times even integrating the routine of their day with the chaos around them. Kander’s award-winning series, Yangtze: The Long River made its debut in New York at Flowers Gallery in October. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan surveys Kander’s series.

Dammed and betrayed

(October 3, 2012) Wang Like is a Three Gorges Dam migrant who moved thinking it was his duty and honour to do so. Wang and his family, along with so many others, gave up everything for the construction of China’s concrete colossus – an edifice that would later be described as equal parts vanity project and technological marvel – in the belief that it was for a greater good. But on arrival in their new resettlement area, Wang’s family experienced what has become standard for countless Three Gorges Dam migrants: a welcome of open hostility, corruption of resettlement funds, broken promises and incomprehensible ill-treatment – as though he and his fellow migrants were being punished for their sacrifice. Wang’s story is rendered in powerful detail here, in a letter he wrote to a sympathetic journalist, in the hopes his voice would be heard.

Mapping disaster

(September 14, 2012) This spring, Probe International used the power of hazard mapping to assess the risks of China’s breakneck dam-building along its western rivers. Now, a new study published by the international scientific journal Tectonophysics discusses how flawed hazard maps may have underestimated such risks and been partly to blame for the devastation caused by the 2011 Japan, 2010 Haiti and 2008 China earthquakes.

Seismic signs

(September 5, 2012) Probe International has been at the forefront of research on the connection between seismic activity and large-dam construction, focusing on examples in China such as the Zipingpu Dam, which is thought to have triggered the deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Now, a new article by U.S.-based quake warning advocate, David Nabhan, calls for a rethink of seismic forecasting in North America that draws on connections so often overlooked: specifically, the trigger effect of dams, and the impact of lunar and solar gravitational tides on earthquake activity.

Big, complicated, hard to manage

(September 1, 2012) The staggering costs of China’s Three Gorges Dam—the displacement of 1.7 million and counting, and a price tag six-times the original estimate—are well known. But the enormous project’s complicated operational demands are largely unknown, and they promise to get more vexing as more dams are built upstream. Power magazine looks at the complexities of delivering power from such large-scale hydropower plants trans-region, trans-province, and trans-basin and the pressing need for peak regulation, frequency regulation, and emergency reserves for hydropower plants.

10 most expensive energy projects in the world

Surprisingly, CNN put China’s behemoth Three Gorges Dam ‒ at a cost of $28 billion ‒ in last place for the ‘honour’ of world’s most expensive energy project. In fact, had CNN used the most recent cost figures for Three Gorges, the world’s largest dam would have come in second place (at $60 billion) between the $116-billion Kashagan oil field in Central Asia and the $57-billion Gorgon gas project in Australia.

Too many masters

(August 20, 2012) A severe test of the Three Gorges dam’s capacity to withstand a major flood peak in July initially showed the mighty dam ready and able. However, downstream areas found themselves at higher risk when floodwaters were released by the dam. Meanwhile, upstream areas are impacted when the dam holds floodwaters back. This article looks at the many pressures, and potential disasters, weighing on the ability of China’s biggest dam to fulfill its design mandate and asks: is July’s flood peak—the biggest test of the dam so far in its nine-year history—just the start?

China’s new mega-dam is a mega-problem

(July 12, 2012) Almost 20 years in the making, China’s Three Gorges mega-dam was declared complete on July 4 when the last of its 32 generators went online, 10 years after the first turbine went into operation. There is no end in sight, however, for costs associated with the vast and controversial project, which remains closer to disaster than triumph.