Author: mencius

Was the Three Gorges Dam worth it? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2006-5-24 05:34:16 |Display all floors

Why is everyone picking on me?

"liangzai (靓仔) Senior Member
Originally posted by mencius at 2006-5-22 17:17

Well I don't think you can blame Mao
For Mr. Fish everything goes back to Mao. In fact, according to Mr. Fish, Mao is still in charge."

I am humbled by the presence of these two.....but....

"  The Yangtze floods of 1954, which left 30,000 people dead and one million people homeless,
brought an unprecedented sense of urgency to damming the Three Gorges. Chairman Mao Tse
vowed to speed up preparations for the dam, and the Yangtze Valley Planning Office* was
established to conduct specific design and feasibility studies for the Three Gorges Project, as well as to develop an overall plan for water resource development within the entire Yangtze River
basin. "

......and before Tong and company go bragging about being under budget before completion.....

.....I would wait until the project is completed and producing electricity.

from your humble blue collar worker......who loves to fish

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Post time 2006-5-24 06:14:55 |Display all floors
Why is everyone picking at me?

Because of your nonsense! The Dam has been talked about since 1919, but this real dam was decided in 1992. I quote Wikipedia for the many facts on this huge project:

The Three Gorges Dam (Simplified Chinese: 三峡大坝; Traditional Chinese: 三峽大壩; Pinyin: Sānxiá Dàbà) (30.827° N 111.000° E) spans the Yangtze River at Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei province, China. Construction began in 1993. It is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, more than five times the size of the Hoover Dam. The reservoir began filling on June 1, 2003, and will occupy the present position of the scenic Three Gorges area, between the cities of Yichang, Hubei; and Fuling, Chongqing Municipality. Structural work was finished on May 20, 2006, nine months ahead of schedule. However, several generators still have to be installed; the dam is expected to become fully operational in 2008.

As with many dams, there is controversy over the costs and benefits of this project. Proponents point to the economic benefits from flood control and hydroelectric power. Opposition is mainly due to concerns about the future of over a million people who will be displaced by the rising waters, the loss of many valuable archaeological and cultural sites, as well as the effects on the environment.


Construction timetable

1993-1997: The Yangtze River was diverted after four years in November 1997
1998-2003: The first group of generators began to generate power in 2003, and a permanent ship lock opened for navigation the same year.
2004-2008: The entire project is to be completed by 2009, when all 26 generators (with a combined generating capacity of 18.2 GW) will be able to generate 84.7 TWh of electricity annually, about one-thirtieth of the nation's electricity consumption.

Proposal and development of project
Sun Yat-sen first proposed building a dam on the Yangtze River in 1919 for power generation purposes and the National Defense Planning Commission under the Kuomintang made the first survey of the proposed site in 1932, but the idea was shelved due to unfavorable political and economic conditions. Major floods resurrected the idea and the PRC government adopted it in 1954 for flood control.

Vice Minister of Electric Power Li Rui initially argued that the dam should be multipurpose, that smaller dams should be built first until China could afford such a costly project, and that construction should proceed in stages to allow time to solve technical problems.

Later, Li Rui concluded that the dam should not be built at all since it would be too costly, flood many cities and fertile farmland, subject the middle and lower reaches of the river to catastrophic flooding during construction, and would not contribute much to shipping. Sichuan province officials also objected to the construction since Sichuan, located upstream, would shoulder most of the costs while downstream Hubei province would receive most of the benefits.

Lin Yishan, head of the Yangtze Valley Planning Office, who was in charge of the project, favored the dam construction, however. His optimism about resolving technical problems was further encouraged in 1958 by the favorable political climate and the support from the late chairman Mao Zedong, who wanted China to have the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. Criticisms were suppressed. But depression resulted from the disastrous Great Leap Forward and ended the preparation work in 1960.

The idea resurfaced in 1963 as part of the new policies to build a "third front" of industry in southwest China. But the Cultural Revolution erupted in 1966, and in 1969 the fear that the dam would be sabotaged by the Soviet Union, now an enemy, resulted in a construction delay. In 1970, work was resumed on Gezhouba, a smaller dam downstream, but it soon ran into severe technical problems and cost overruns that seemed likely to plague the Three Gorges Dam on an even larger scale.

The economic reforms introduced in 1978 underlined the need for more electric power to supply a growing industrial base, so the State Council approved the construction in 1979. A feasibility study was conducted in 1982 to 1983 to appease the increasing number of critics, who complained that the project did not adequately address technical, social, or environmental issues. Further feasibility studies were then conducted from 1985 to 1988 by Canadian International Project Managers Yangtze Joint Venture, a consortium of five Canadian engineering firms.

Leaders from Chongqing also demanded suddenly that the dam height be raised so substantially that it would cripple the project and free them from bearing the brunt of the costs. The new height and the demand for a more reliable study with the use of international standards resulted in a new feasibility study in 1986.

Ecologist Hou Xueyu was among the few who refused to sign the environmental report, claiming that it falsely overstated the environmental benefits provided by the dam, failed to convey the real extent of environmental impact, and lacked adequate solutions to environmental concerns.

Environmentalists internationally began to protest more vociferously. Human rights advocates criticized the resettlement plan. Archeologists balked at the submergence of a huge number of historical sites. Many mourned the loss of some of the world's finest scenery.

Increasing numbers of engineers doubted whether the dam would actually achieve its stated purposes. Chinese journalist/engineer Dai Qing published a book relentlessly criticising the project by the Chinese scientists, yet many foreign construction companies continued to press their governments to financially support the construction in hopes of winning contracts.

Approval of project

In the face of much domestic and international pressure, the State Council agreed in March 1989 to suspend the construction plans for five years. After the TS protests of 1989, however, the government forbade public debate of the dam, accused foreign critics of ignorance or intent to undermine the regime, and imprisoned Dai Qing and other famous critics.

Premier Li Peng crusaded for the dam and pushed it through the National People's Congress in April 1992 despite the opposition or abstention from one-third of the delegates. Such actions were unprecedented from a body that usually rubberstamped all government proposals.

Resettlement soon began, and physical preparations started in 1994. While the government solicited technology, services, hardware and financing from abroad, leaders reserved the engineering and construction contracts for Chinese firms.

Corruption scandals have plagued the project. It was believed that contractors had won bids through bribery and then skimped on equipment and materials to siphon off construction funds. The head of the Three Gorges Economic Development Corp. allegedly sold jobs in his company, took out project-related loans and disappeared with the money in May 2000. Officials from the Three Gorges Resettlement Bureau were caught embezzling funds from resettlement programs in January 2000.

Much of the project's infrastructure was so shoddy that Premier Zhu Rongji ordered some of it to be demolished in 1999 after a number of high-profile accidents including a collapse of a bridge. Zhu Rongji, who had been a harsh critic of the project, announced that the officials had a "mountain of responsibility on their heads". Around the time, a significant crack had also developed in the dam. To offset construction costs, project officials had quietly changed the operating plan approved by the NPC to fill the reservoir after six years rather than 10. In response, 53 engineers and academics petitioned President Jiang Zemin twice in the first half of 2000 to delay full filling of the reservoir and relocating the local population until scientists could determine whether a higher reservoir was viable given the sedimentation problems. Construction continued regardless.

Debate over the dam


Officials report that the plan is within its US$25 billion budget and insisted early on that the project would pay for itself through electricity generation. However, the project is thought to have cost more than any other single construction project in history, with unofficial estimates of US$100 billion or more.

Increasing wealth disparity

Critics see the dam as primarily serving the interests of east coast industrialists since they have the most need for the hydro-electric power. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of millions of people displaced from prime arable land. Making matters worse, relocation compensation has been inadequate (with corrupt officials stealing from the fund), the number of people displaced has been grossly underestimated, and their new land is of poor quality.

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Post time 2006-5-24 06:15:11 |Display all floors

Although hydro-electric power is a renewable energy, the creation of large reservoirs can generate considerable quantities of greenhouse gases, including substantial amounts of methane, due to micro-biotic activity. Compared to the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional natural gas power plants, emissions from northern reservoirs are typically about 5% of conventional power plants, while emissions from tropical reservoirs are typically 25%.

The amount of power generated by the dam in 2009 was originally anticipated to supply about 10% of China's electricity needs, but with China's rapidly growing economy it is only projected to produce approximately 3% at the end of 2006. Over 80% of the country's power is currently produced by coal.

Huge reservoirs by their nature alter the ecosystem and threaten some habitats while helping other habitats. The Chinese River Dolphin and the Chinese Paddlefish, for example, are on the edge of extinction and will lose habitat and suffer divided populations due to the dam. Of the 3,000 to 4,000 remaining critically endangered Siberian Crane, approximately 95% currently winter in wetlands that will be destroyed by the Three Gorges Dam.

While logging in the area was required for construction which adds to erosion, stopping the periodic uncontrolled river flooding will lessen erosion in the long run. The build up of silt in the reservoir will, however, reduce the amount of silt transported by the Yangtze River to the Yangtze Delta and could reduce the effectiveness of the dam for electricity generation and, perhaps more important, the lack of silt deposited in the river delta could result in erosion and sinking of coastal areas.

Cities such as Shanghai need ever increasing electricity to power its new modern skyline. With 26 hydro turbines generating up to 18 gigawatts of electricity, the equivalent of roughly eighteen coal power stations or 11,000 barrels of oil per hour, the Dam will help reduce this power shortage. Filling this demand for energy with hydroelectric power will also be welcomed by environmentalists as China has been criticised for relying too heavily on fossil fuel in recent decades. While in the short term the dam will cause extra pollution, the dam could potentially reduce China's annual coal consumption by 40 to 50 million tons, thus reducing the discharge of two million tons of sulfur dioxide and 10,000 tons of carbon monoxide a year.

Local culture and aesthetic values

The 600 km (370 mile) long reservoir will inundate some 1,300 archeological sites and alter the legendary beauty of the Three Gorges. Cultural and historical relics are being moved to higher ground as they are discovered but the flooding of the Gorge will undoubtedly cover some undiscovered relics. Many other sites cannot be moved because of their size or design.

These historical sites contain remnants of the homeland of the Ba, an ancient people who settled in the region more than 4,000 years ago. One of the traditions of the Ba was to bury the dead in coffins in caves high on the cliff.


The installation of ship locks is intended to increase river shipping from 10 million to 50 million tonnes annually, with transportation costs cut by 30 to 37 percent. Shipping will become safer, since the gorges are notoriously dangerous to navigate. Each ship lock is made up of 5 stages taking around 4 hours in total to complete. Critics argue, however, that heavy siltation will clog ports such as Chongqing within a few years based on the evidence from other dam projects.

The canal locks are designed to be 280 m (918 ft) long, 35 m (114 ft) wide, and 5 m (16.4 ft) deep.[8] That is 30 m longer than those on the St Lawrence Seaway, but half as deep. The canal locks are designed to handle 10,000 ton barges.

The project also includes a ship lift, a kind of elevator, which will be capable of lifting ships of up to 3,000 tons. In the original plan the ship lift would carry 10,000 ton vessels.

Flood control

The reservoir's 22,202,673,076 m3 (18 million acre-foot) (24,452,283 U.S. Tons of Flood water) (equivalent to a cube 2.8 km on each side) flood storage capacity will lessen the frequency of big downstream floods from once every 10 years to once every 100 years. But critics believe that the Yangtze will add 530 million tonnes of silt into the reservoir on average per year and it will soon be useless in preventing floods, the system designed to flush out the silt relies on an unproven sequence of sluice gates. Increased sedimentation resulting from the dam could increase the already high flood level at Chongqing.

There is also a contradiction between the roles of the dam as flood control and hydroelectricity production. Flood control requires dam levels to be kept low, allowing for increased flow throughout flood times, whereas hydroelectricity requires higher levels to allow for continual escape of water to produce the electricity. Probe International asserts that the dam does not address the real source of flooding, which is the loss of forest cover in the Yangtze watershed and the loss of 13,000 km2 of lakes (which had greatly helped to alleviate floods) due to siltation, reclamation and uncontrolled development.

Potential hazards

Concerns exist about the quality of construction materials used, highlighted by a major crack appearing in the dam in 2000, and have led some critics to fear a potential catastrophe similar to the Banqiao Dam failure of 1975.

In an annual report to the United States Congress, the Department of Defense cited that ROC "proponents of strikes against the mainland apparently hope that merely presenting credible threats to China's urban population or high-value targets, such as the Three Gorges Dam, will deter Chinese military coercion." The notion that the ROC military would seek to destroy the Dam provoked an angry response from the mainland state media. PLA General Liu Yuan was quoted [6] in the China Youth Daily saying that the PRC would be "seriously on guard against threats from Taiwanese independence terrorists". Despite a claim by ROC Deputy Defence Minister Tsai Ming Hsian to the contrary most analysts believe the Republic of China neither has nor will seek the technology to bomb the Three Gorges Dam, fearing that Beijing will respond with overwhelming force. A group of 53 Chinese engineers campaigned for the government to rethink plans for the dam. If the reservoir level is filled to 156 m then 520,000 fewer people will have to be displaced, easing demands on the government. The original plan for the Three Gorges Dam, approved by the National People's Congress in 1992, aimed to keep water levels behind the Three Gorges dam at 156 m for the first ten years. Dam officials changed the plans to maximize the dam's power output in 1997.

In September 2004 the China Times reported that heavily armed guards had been deployed to the area to fend off a possible terrorist attack, but made no mention of who might want to target the dam.

There are two hazards uniquely identified with the dam: sedimentation modeling is unverified and the dam sits on a seismic fault. Excessive sedimentation can block the sluice gates which can cause dam failure under some conditions. This was a contributing cause of the Banqiao Dam failure in 1975 that precipitated the failure of 61 other dams and resulted in over 200,000 deaths. Also, the weight of the dam and reservoir can theoretically cause induced seismicity, as happened with the Katse Dam in Lesotho.

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Post time 2006-5-24 07:08:14 |Display all floors

If you want to blame anyone........

blame Li Peng. It's not as if anyone here's going to object to you putting the knife in his back.

(Though I'd be rather amused to see anyone try and defend him............)
"People are the water, the ruler is the boat; water can carry the boat, but it can also capsize it."

-- Li Shimin (2nd Tang Emperor, "Taizong")

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Post time 2006-5-24 12:23:32 |Display all floors
Why single out a scape goat if you want to put blame?

This issue has apparently stirred up debate for a very long time, and it has been a real political process. The fact that 1/3 of the representatives went against the proposititon means progress in my eyes, not because this project is a bad one but because it means there is political struggle. The dam was in a way decided by a democratic process within the parliament.

I just wish there would be more such polarization, more such debate, because it benefits the cause and the country, leading to better decisions (mostly). If everyone agrees, you don't need a congress/parliament, you might just go up to the emperor and get the decree as originally written.

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Post time 2006-5-24 13:13:19 |Display all floors

One Voice

You gentlemen truly do not appreciate the strengths of SWCC.  

Yes, there were heated debates over the TGD.  But debates have always been there - in the politburo, in all sorts of meetings within the system.

BUT, once there is decision, everyone puts aside their differences and support the projects 110%.  That's how China, of all nations, is the ONLY in human history capable of doing a project of this scale on time and under budget.  

Compare that to the American system.  The leave no bridges unburned Republicans instituted a call for majority among the majority since they have taken both houses.  Now the Democrats are basically irrelevant - they might as well not be there.  The Republicans make a point of rubbing it in - they don't even bother circulating bills for the Democrats to read, because they have the votes already.  Often it is the newspapers that find out about the content of a bill before the Democrats do.  What do the Democrats do in response?  You can blame them, since they are mad about being ignored - they throw roadblocks just to get attention.

Within each of the parties, there is absolute control, since the "top leaders" who are star fund raisers (the best liars in the world - able to deliver the most bribes aka "campaign contributions" ) wield gigantic power through distribution of excess funds to the newer thugs of their party.  Disobedience means being kicked off choice committees and see funds cut off - there was this one Republican who voted to impeach Clinton, but did not vote with the party to impeach on all causes, and his entire fund raising staff quit on him in the middle of fundraising season. And both parties do that to their new members, just as the Mafia commands loyalty.

At the end of the day, the only thing that "talks" and consistently gets respect is money.  Only moneyed interests are represented.

That is why the Ameriacn system is no longer capable of producing great things like the TGD.

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Post time 2006-5-25 05:29:03 |Display all floors

We focus upward...

....that is why we own the moon and look to other planets.

I heard China is looking to visit our moon (passport needed please):)

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