Monday, November 19, 2007

china's three gorges dam

China is quickly becoming one of the world’s leading polluters. Recently, Chinese air pollution has been known to travel up to 3,000 miles away and can be found blowing in to American coastal cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles (

With a huge percentage of its population moving from rural areas with no electricity or running water into an urban environment for job opportunities, China’s government is struggling to keep up with the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the influx. Coal burning for electricity is the current source of most of China’s energy at present, but the government is making an effort to provide more efficient ways to supply the changing population’s need for energy.

One of the alternatives being implemented is harnessing the massive Yangtze River’s currents by building dams to supply hydroelectric power. These dams will drastically change the environments around the river. Also, these large projects involve relocating an estimate 11 million rural people away from the river because of rising waters upstream.

The Three Gorges Dam is getting criticism from environmentalists and economists alike. The former point out the poor environmental planning that went into the project from the start. The river has seen garbage and silt accumulation behind the dam, fertilizer runoff from the flooded land formerly used for agriculture, and no planned infrastructure to remediate the environmental damage. Economically, the Gorge project is costing China much more than many think it is worth. The Dam’s price includes the dam itself, relocating the shore-dwelling people by offering them subsidies and cash rewards to move to the city, and remediating the unplanned for environmental issues, while ensuring they don’t happen in the future.

China’s Three Gorges Dam is an interesting case study on a developing country struggling to meet its energy needs. The growing pains are lessons for everyone.

Link to Wall Street Journal Article:
Link to accompanying video:

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