The Three Gorges Dam was designed to tame China’s longest river. But this summer’s record rains reveal its limited ability to control floods.
Experts fear Lintao’s dry-up is a sign of things to come. Probe International fellow and noted Chinese environmental journalist, Dai Qing, says China’s water scarcity and toxicity is the greatest danger facing her country today.
The Yangtze River has been slated to accommodate yet another project in the name of “development” and “drought prevention”: the Dian Zhong Water Diversion Project, a 661-kilometer endeavour with some high hopes pinned to it.
Geologists predict more frequent catastrophes in China’s Three Gorges Dam region, after landslides wipe out a hydropower plant. Fan Xiao and Yang Yong, the authors of several reports for Probe International, speak to thethirdpole.net about a disaster-prone region made more perilous by intensive hydropower development and call for new risk assessments to be carried out.
China is so bad at conservation that it had to launch the most impressive water-pipeline project ever
(March 17, 2014) Reporter Lily Kuo takes an in-depth look at China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project — the world’s largest water diversion conceived originally by Mao Zedong as a way to relieve North China’s dwindling water resources by “borrowing” from the south of the country. But not even the project’s leaders are pretending the mammoth, ultra-complex, $80-billion scheme will solve China’s water problem. Moreover, it has already created extra problems. Kuo concludes the project is another example of an engineer-dominated government’s fondness for huge-scale vanity projects with a particular weakness for mega-water works. No wonder. Without the man-made institutions — a robust regulatory regime and the rule of law — the Chinese government is bereft of tools to induce the efficient use (and conservation) of water. And so it builds canals and moves water from one watershed to another, creating havoc and perpetuating the problem of China’s crippling water crisis.
(March 17, 2014) Part two of Lily Kuo’s substantial overview of China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project (SNWDP) and its resettlement process. Kuo notes that since 1949, more than 45 million Chinese have been displaced by infrastructure projects and, of those, 12 million have been moved for water schemes. The water projects, she notes, have a particularly depressing record in terms of outcomes for the resettled. Although there are signs, she says, of villagers moved for the SNWDP receiving better care than those in the past, the same old resettlement problems abound. Worst of all, there are no farms to tend and jobs to do. “This isn’t a life,” says one migrant of the soul-destroying joblessness. “In the morning, you see everyone sleeps in. In the afternoon, they play cards. That’s it.”
(August 14, 2012) Having survived dinosaurs and the Ice Age, China’s legendary Paddlefish has met its gravest threat – Chinese Communist Party officials intent on building dams on the Yangtze to inflate their economic achievements, but that block fish migratory routes.
(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.
(February 8, 2012) Admissions of trouble at Three Gorges Dam by China’s powerful State Council last spring, left many wondering how the behemoth dam ever got off the drawing board. Now, in a first, behind the scenes, account of raw power politics, Guo Yushan from China’s Transition Institute describes how Three Gorges critics were silenced, and China’s power mandarins maneuvered, to build the world’s largest and most troubled dam. Read this translation by Probe International of the article that went viral on China’s Internet.
(October 20, 2011) Two recent reports show that China’s hydropower output has fallen drastically over the past year, as decreased runoff from major rivers has led to falling reservoir levels in China’s major dams. The Bureau of Statistics stated that hydropower output was one-fifth lower than last September, while the National Development and Reform Commission measured a decrease of 24.5% – a loss of nearly a quarter.
(July 19, 2011) China’s weekly newspaper, the Economic Observer, says the Three Gorges dam is the primary reason for the demise of the Yangtze’s “big four” fish species. By changing the hydrological regime downstream of the dam, the fry population of the black, grass, silver, and bighead carp have plummeted by 97%. Attempts to simulate the original hydrological conditions with forced water releases and restocking the river with broodstock will be futile say experts.
(June 29, 2011) The recent drought and the government’s mea culpa have refocused attention on problems at China’s controversial Three Gorges Dam. “The dam is becoming a symbol of all that is wrong with political decision-making in China,” says Patricia Adams of Probe International.
(May 25, 2011) Contradicting official claims that the Three Gorges reservoir plays no part in exacerbating the drought in the Yangtze River basin, Ma Jun of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-government organization, told Reuters: “Without the Three Gorges Dam, the water level in the Yangtze would not be that low.” Faced with the downstream drought crisis, Three Gorges officials have been ordered to release water, thus hampering their ability to generate power. Added Ma: “Fundamentally there is a conflict between hydropower generation and water supply, irrigation, and navigation.”
(May 5, 2011) Beijing’s water shortage is one of the main factors thwarting the region’s sustainable economic growth, say bankers who have joined environmentalists in sounding the alarm over the city’s “chronic water deficit.”
(April 7, 2011) Dai Qing, Chinese investigative journalist and Probe International Fellow, delivered the following speech about the Three Gorges Dam project in November 2010 while on a speaking tour in British Columbia, Canada. In her address, she reports that the problems predicted by dam critics published in her books, “Yangtze! Yangtze!” and “The River Dragon Has Come!,” are now coming true.