Three Gorges Dam: an environmental disaster

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2007

Hailed as one of the engineering feats of the 20th century, the Three Gorges Dam across China's Yangtze river is having a disastrous impact on the environment. Only a year after the completion of the world's largest hydroelectric project, Chinese officials have admitted that the project is causing severe ecological problems and could be an "environmental catastrophe".

"There exist many ecological and environmental problems concerning the dam," said the state news agency Xinhua.

While the dam has served as a barrier against flooding, it has caused ecological problems in the lower reaches of the Yangtze. Officials say, the huge weight of the water behind the Three Gorges Dam had started to erode the Yangtze's banks at many places, which, together with frequent fluctuations in water levels, had triggered a series of landslides. The shore of the reservoir had collapsed at 91 places and a total of 36 km of shoreline had caved in. The government had earlier ignored critics.

For more than a decade China has promoted the hydroelectric project as the best way to end centuries of floods along the basin of the Yangtze and to provide energy to fuel the country's economic boom. It also claimed that the electricity generated by the project would bring down carbon emissions by 100 million tonnes.

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