Three Gorges Dam

Posted: August 14th, 2013

The Three Gorges Dam



The Three Gorges Dam


At the time of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, much discourse regarding the benefits encompassing the incorporation of the infrastructure illustrated the enormous economic gain that China would acquire. Nevertheless, the detriments innate within the construction of the dam surpassed such benefits based on various aspects that mostly related to the impact of the dam on the villagers. The disadvantages bordered on the civilians living within the boundaries of the Yangtze River within the town of Sandouping. For the civilians, creation of the dam meant that they would have to abandon their culture, heritage, community and life due to the flooding of the dam in every village located on the borders of the river. Regardless of the effect on the villagers, construction of the Three Gorges Dam also possessed various other significant impacts.

Ethical Issues

The ethical issues encompassing the construction of the Three Gorges Dam mostly involve the impact of relocation of the villagers from the area surrounding the Three Gorges. Irrespective of the flooding caused by the Yangtze River in August 1998 that led to the deaths of over 3000 people and the displacement of nearly 2 million people, the ethical impact of the Three Gorges project still encompasses the objective of the dam in curbing the flooding. One of the main ethical issues encompassing this construction is corruption. Accordingly, the procedure of relocation of the villagers possesses insufficient central control. As such, the inadequacy of central control within the relocation process creates corruption especially among local officials. The central government is responsible for providing regulations that require compliance regarding relocations.

However, the states possess the authority to formulate particular relocation policies. As such, while housing was accessible for villagers facing relocation, other villagers did not acquire housing and as such, built their own homes. Local authorities channeled the finance for compensation for projects based on infrastructure instead of granting the compensation money for the villagers that require it for relocation (Markham & Fulkerson, 2000). In addition, the displaced villagers that enquired for the compensation money from the local officials faced beatings from them. In instances that saw the state providing housing, the houses provided were substandard and incongruous for livelihood. Furthermore, the territory encompassing the Three Gorges is inappropriate for progression and as such, houses built on the slopes within the area are falling asunder.

Regarding the issue of compensation money, the amount designated for compensation comprises 46 percent of the dam’s total costs. Nevertheless, by 1999, embezzlement litigations totaling to 140 constituted the compensation project. This is because a considerable number of local officials increased the value of land as well as the population of their jurisdictions in order to obtain greater government funding. With respect to the embezzlement cases reported, a sum of 473 Yuan was lost, which represents 12 percent of the relocation budget. By 2005, local authorities misappropriated US$ 35 million (Simon, Butler & Bennett, 2008).

Societal Issues

The most significant effect on the Chinese villagers regarding the construction of the Three Gorges Dam is the displacement of an enormous number of people from the region within the Yangtze River. This is because of the fact that the creation of the reservoir necessitated the evacuation of millions of villagers from numerous villages and towns that lately submerged due to the increasing water capacity of the river. As a vital note, the region encompassing the Yangtze comprises a considerable part of the most significant groups of human life globally. However, the creation of the dam led to the erosion of such clusters that fostered the history of the Chinese people along the Yangtze River. Accordingly, the submerging of historical villages along the Yangtze River rid the culture and history of the villagers and as such, depleted the sense of community in the villages (Simon, Butler & Bennett, 2008).

Alternately, the economic effect of the Three Gorges Dam focuses on ameliorating the industrialized cities. However, the surrounding villagers face poverty and as such, are dependent on tourism, which is slowly crippling due to the rising water capacity, which submerges the cultural artifices and historical structures such as temples that once interested tourists from most parts of the world. In addition, the relocated displaced people comprise farmers and as such become unable to cope with urban life (Albert, Guest & Foster, 2011). Due to insufficient poor conditions, most of these individuals opt to move to the areas surrounding the Yangtze area irrespective of the challenges the flooding poses for their lives and wellbeing.

Environmental Issues

The construction of the Three Gorges Dam also possesses considerable environmental issues on the villagers. Much of the environmental impact of the construction encompasses the aspects of erosion, pollution, shifts in biodiversity and deterioration of health among the civilians. For instance, the detonation of dynamite in the creation of diversion channels possesses harmful effects on the atmosphere and the health of human life in general. Within the first year of the construction, workers detonated over 80000 dynamites, thereby increasing the amount of dust in the atmosphere. From that point henceforth, 15 tons of dust fills the atmosphere on a daily basis. As such, the production of the dust in the atmosphere progresses the increase of carcinogens that cause heart disease, which is the leading killer of Chinese people (Albert, & Carroll, 2006).

In addition, the increase of sediment within the reservoir increases the risk of flooding upstream. As such, the effects associated with flooding generally involve biodiversity shifts, which characterize the migration of organism species to different vicinities in which the organisms are at risk of becoming extinct due to the natural limitation on adaptability. In addition, the diversion of water leads to habitat fragmentation that augments biodiversity shifts. Accordingly, the creation of the Three Gorges Dam exerts pressure on the earth’s crust and as such, leads to the increasing number of earthquakes such as the earthquake that occurred in May 2008 that led to the deaths of 87000 people (Albert, Guest & Foster, 2011).

Political Issues

Indeed, the decision to construct the Three Gorges Dam, in part comprised political motives. This is because of the assertion that the decision created the opportunity for the advancement of domestic politics. Additionally, the initial proposition to build the dam received contentious arguments from foreign countries such as the United States. Much of the contention bordered on foreign policies on trade and environmentalism (Simon, Butler, & Bennett, 2008). Based on the claims of Non-Governmental Organizations that creation of the dam would lead to considerable environmental detriments, the United States opposed the grant of export funding. Nevertheless, by employing political effort, the construction of the dam gained affirmation and as such, marked a progress in Chinese domestic politics.

Benefits to China Today

Most of the development encompassing China currently gains contribution from the Three Gorges Dam. Nevertheless, one of the major benefits of the dam is the control of flooding. For many years, flooding adversely affected China both economically and socially through the destruction of houses, businesses and the deaths of a large number of people. However, with the creation of a reservoir, the water flow reduced downstream and increased in periods of dry season due to the control by the reservoir. Furthermore, cities such as Chongqing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Wuhan gain urbanized development illustrated by the increase in the number of factory plants (Albert, & Carroll, 2006).

Recovery of Displaced Villagers

The situation of the displaced villagers seems to be consistent irrespective of the significant funding poured into the development of the dam and the adjacent industrial hubs. For those that underwent relocation, poverty encompasses their lifestyle as noted with the villagers living within the Three Gorges Area (Albert, & Carroll, 2006). Irrespective of the residential houses provided by the government in resettling the villagers, most express discontent at the fact that the government does not offer any further assistance on their recovery.


The conclusion of the Three Gorges Dam exemplifies the opportunity costs based on the effect of the infrastructure. As such, the villagers living within the Yangtze region and other corresponding areas underwent relocation and inadequate resettlement in order to focus on the political and economic objective of the Three Gorges Dam. Additionally, irrespective of the costs bordering on ethical, environmental and social issues, it is evident that the construction of dam will remain to be an eminent factor in the lives of the people.





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