The world’s largest hydroelectric dam and a significant infrastructure development for China has been admitted through a statement by the Chinese State Council to be causing worrying environmental problems which need immediate action to be resolved.
The Three Gorges Dam has always been a controversial project, before construction began in 1994 a third of China’s parliament voted against its development. Despite this negativity, the construction went ahead and was completed in 2006. In 2007 a government conference outlined the dam as an ‘environmental catastrophe’.
In 2010 the dam reached its full height, it has now submerged 13 cities, 140 towns and has caused flooding and landslides to over 1,000 villages. Along with this, 1.3 million people have had to be relocated from the area of the Yangtze River through the town of Sandouping which is located in the Yiling District of Yionang in the Hubei province.
Combined with the environmental problems, the State Council has admitted that more needs to be done to support and improve the lives of these people who have lost their homes due to the construction of the dam. The statement announces the need to help the relocated people by providing more jobs, better transport and infrastructure links and improved security benefits. More needs to be done in protecting the environment and working towards preventing natural disasters.
Despite the initial praises in the statement outlining where the dam is improving things, such as alleviating flooding and generating electricity there still are a multitude of environmental issues and worries associated with the $23 billion dam.
The 600 foot tall dam which covers a space of 660 kilometres has a concrete barrier which is made up of 16 million tons of concrete. Many geologists believe that ‘damming up’ does have a direct connection to the increase in landslides, earthquakes and consistent damage to the rivers ecology. A report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection has highlighted the levels of contamination in the water of the Yangtze River particularly of copper, lead, ammonium and zinc.
The Yangtze River is a vital source of water for millions of people in the surrounding areas for farming, industries and homes. The levels of contamination are affecting drinking water and crops. It has also been admitted that the dam has negatively affected downstream river water, migration and transport.
Now what is feared as the worst drought in 50 years has hit Southern China. 10 million people are being directly affected by the drought which has hit the Yangtze River, the middle and lower sections of the river in the Hunan, Jiangxi, Hubei and Anhui provinces.