Category: Three Gorges

Has the Three Gorges Dam increased Shanghai’s flood risk potential?

(August 9, 2013) The effects of the giant dam’s operations on water flow are ramping up the risks of damage from storm surges in Shanghai, says expert. Meanwhile, China’s flood loss potential sounds warning bells for insurers.

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Beijing social think-tank shut down amid crackdown

(July 20, 2013) On the heels of anti-graft campaigner Xu Zhiyong’s detention, authorities continue to get tough on rights activists as they endure another wallop of repression, shutting down a Beijing-based think tank. The move is seen as payback for activists who have called on government leaders to declare their assets, and on lawyers who defend “sensitive” cases.

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.”

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.

Cyberwar and secrecy threaten China’s dams

(March 12, 2013) China may be the world’s biggest cyberspace aggressor, but security specialists say China’s computer-controlled infrastructure is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and to malfunctioning domestic software than are Western systems. Read Patricia Adams’ piece in the Huffington Post on why China’s dams are vulnerable to both.

Trouble on the Yangtze

(December 19, 2012) A central government plan to dramatically increase China’s reliance on non-fossil fuels will derive two-thirds of that target from hydropower – “an increase on par with adding nearly one Three Gorges Dam a year,” reports Jane Qiu for Science magazine. In her article on over-development of the country’s river pulse, the once mighty Yangtze, Qiu looks at the threat China’s damming fever poses to river habitats and species, the calamity potential of dam construction in quake-prone regions and mounting criticism of China’s biased environmental impact assessment process.

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.

Whitewashing the Three Gorges Dam

(October 15, 2012) Lauded by Chinese officialdom as a symbol of its growing might, the Three Gorges Dam had already been in operation for eight years when the Three Gorges Corporation issued its first-ever corporate social responsibility report. The release of the CSR report coincided with a wave of heightened concern surrounding the dam’s failings and impacts, and a rare admission by China’s State Council that all was not well with the jewel in its crown of modernity. A commentary by Li Tie at the time, published by China’s respected South Weekend, described the Corporation’s document as awash in insipid content” and exactly not what the public needed, which was honesty. Li even went so far as to say reports that did not respond honestly to widespread concerns, in effect, posed a threat to the nation’s social stability, leaving Chinese citizens more likely to place their faith in the country’s rumor mill than official documents they could not trust. Li’s misgivings appear to have only gained in resonance this year, as China’s recent summer of protest bears out.

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.

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.

Dam madness

(July 4, 2012) As the fierce struggle between China’s hydropower industry and environmental conservationists rages anew, what has become clear in the meanwhile: the country’s rivers cannot sustain the current pace of development.