The Three Gorges Dam
For a very long time even before China was founded in 1949, floods were common in this nation. In order to prevent the waters from raving havoc, a few dams were built. The main defense against the raging floods was dykes which were built along the main rivers in China. The government that came into power embarked on an ambitious project to control the raging flood waters all over the country. In a period of forty years about 80,000 reservoirs as well as dams were built. The dams as well as the reservoirs were both small and big, but due to poor construction of a majority of the projects, by 1921 about 3,200 of the dams had crumbled. The dams had to be upgraded using a lot of funds.
The construction of the Three Gorges Dam was a plan that had been initiated since the year 1940’s. The project was put on hold in the early years of 1990 (Hvistendahl, 2008). The main reason for stalling of the project was because of financial constraints, but not ecological reasons. Due to the rampant floods in China the government started the building of the Three Gorges Dam in the Yangtze River, despite the opposition from both the international community and the environmentalists in China. The dam which is the largest in the world covers about 24,500 hectare, and about 370 mile long. Various groups that were against the construction of the dam raised issues such as ethical issues, environmental issues, and societal issues (Hvistendahl, 2008).
Ethical issues that were raised included the displacement of about 1.5 up to 1.9 million people who had to move to pave way for the construction of the dam. More than 24,500 hectares of productive farm land had to submerge; furthermore about 1,300 historical sights had to be destroyed. The construction of the Dam had effects on all the people living on the lower side of the dam as the flow of the water had to be interfered with. The construction of the dam would affect the lively hood of about 20 million fishermen who depended on river Mekong. The international community as well as the environmentalists in China felt that the project was affecting very many people negatively.
In terms of the effect of the Three Gorges Dam to the environment, the whole ecosystem that the dam covered was disrupted completely. Soil erosion and mudslides during the construction of the dam interfered with the ecosystem. The radical increase as well as decrease of water inside the dam causes erosion on the land near the dam. Landslides also increased on the areas surrounding the dam and as a result, many people have lost their lives.
The construction of the Three Gorges Dam has affected the biodiversity of the area. Both animal as well as human and plants have been affected; some animals and even plants face extinction as a result of water flooding in a number of habitats (Hvistendahl, 2008). Diversion of water in some areas has completely destroyed plant that cannot withstand swampy areas. The dam has caused critical fragmentation of the habitat on both the plants as well as animal habitats. Reproduction pattern of various species, both animal and plants, was immensely disrupted thus affecting the population of the species.
The dam has affected the flow of fresh water and, in turn, salt water is slowly sipping into the Yangtze River, thus affecting the fish population in the river. The amount of water flowing downstream has been redirected hence interfering with the entire system of the river (Hvistendahl, 2008). The surrounding area where the dam is built had to be cleared off the plants in the area as a result massive deforestation. Some trees that had been in existence for a long time had to be fell down. Animals that were living initially in the area had to move as a result of the destruction of the animals’ habitat.
The dam has been linked to catastrophes such as the possible acceleration of the earthquake, and rampant landslides as a result of spillway from the dam. The dam might cause flooding downstream due to down rage of the water from the dam (Hvistendahl, 2008).
The social effect of the Three Gorges Dams was the displacement of millions of Chinese people from their homes. Towns were submerged to create space; as result, many businesses and children were affected as firms were closed and schools had to be relocated respectively (Kite, 2011).
Due to the relocation, some children had to abandon their studies. Some of the people who were displaced were never compensated for all they loss; as a result, some are living in deplorable conditions. Other people displaced by the construction were compensated half of the amount agreed to by the government. Most of the people who were displaced were farmers who had minimal level of education; some of who returned to Yangtze after finding the life in the cities to be very hard. Another group of the displaced persons are living in tents while others are still living in the houses that were destroyed during the construction of the dam (Handwerk, 2006).
The dam has caused pollution of the water downstream. The pollution of the water was brought about by the dumping of some of the building materials into the water. The nearby cities also have been affected as a result of migrant workers moving into the cities; thus the city has been put under social pressure to sustain the growing population (Kite, 2011).
The relocation of the people affected some of them who habited the place for a number of years. Removing these people from a place they had called home for a long time affected them immensely. The relocation caused societal stress, as some people lost their neighbors, friends, and even relatives due to the relocation (Handwerk, 2006).
Another social effect of the dam was the forceful eviction of some of the people who were against being relocated to other places. There are some people who were forced to live in deploraable conditions than before as the forceful eviction left them poor. Some residents’ life’s was degraded as a result of the construction of the dam. Construction of more dams caused more social unrest, as more people are against the construction of more dams (Kite, 2011).
The construction of the dam led to death of many workers through accidents; as a result, many families of the dead were left without breadwinners. The death of the breadwinners caused an increase of the poverty level among the community.
The construction of the Three Gorges Dam had political connection. The Chongqing area where the dam is situates was promoted to a municipality as result of the construction of the Dam. The political class in the area was aware of the political gains that came with the construction of the dam. By being promoted to a municipality Chongqing area ultimately was meant to become independent. Apart from the reason of being promoted, the government had to rely on political goodwill for the project to succeed. Politics is very significant for any project to materialize, as the project had to be approved by politicians.
Benefits of the dam
Since about 2,300 years ago, China has recorded about 214 major floods. At an average that is about one major flood in about 10 years. In the last one hundred years, China has had five major floods which has caused millions of life’s, destroyed millions of hectares of fertile farmland, and thousands of home. In the year 1998, floods caused havoc leading to loss of lives’. The gorges area alone had about 4,000 dead and about 14 million people left homeless. The construction of the dam in the Yangtze, managed to protect about 1.5 million hectares of land, and about 15 million people. The dam managed to control the flood waters during the rainy season. During the rainy season the dam stores water that can be used to support the daily needs of the people (Handwerk, 2006).
The gorges Dam has been used to produce electricity enough to supply 3% of China’s electricity needs. In doing so, the dam is very vital in the economy of china a most industries depend on electric power, thus the economy is boosted as industries will perform to the maximum. The dam has enabled trade in the Yangtze, and has also enabled big ship to venture deep into the Yangtze inland (Hvistendahl, 2008).
Effects on Families
Some of the families that were relocated have not been able to live as comfortably as they were living before. However, the families that were compensated managed to reorganize their lives, but there are some that still live in abject poverty, and having tents for shelter.
Handwerk, Brian. 2006. “China’s Three Gorges Dam, by the Numbers.” National Geographic News. Accessed October 3, 2011: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/06/060609-gorges-dam.html
Hvistendahl, Mara. 2008. “China’s Three Gorges Dam: An Environmental Catastrophe?” Scientific American. Accessed October 3, 2011:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=chinas-three-gorges-dam-disaster
Kite, L. P. (2011). Building the Three Gorges Dam. New York: Rain tree.