The Three Gorges Dam Project- China
Hydro-electric power is the conversion of the kinetic energy of falling water into electricity. Of the world's electricity, 15% is produced in this fashion (Baird, Stuart. http://www.iclei.org/efacts/hydroele.htm, 07/09/00). In 1996 the demand for electricity in developing Asia was rising at 8% a year and the region has enormous potential for hydro-electric power (The Economist (US), Oct 12, 1996 v341 n7987 p66 (1).).
In order to produce hydropower, dams must be built. From an ecological, as distinct from economic viewpoint, dams may result in, not only human dislocation but also ecological damage or, at the least, environmental change. The dilemma is one of whether the benefits of industrialisation outweigh the costs to the environment. Some Asian countries appear willing to tread the path of industrialisation at all costs. This essay will examine the advantages and disadvantages of dam construction, and then look at China's Three Gorges Project as a case study.
The main advantage of dams can be seen when hydro-electric power is compared to other energy sources such as coal, oil, wood and nuclear power. Dam energy is renewable, emits no air or water polluting by-products and no waste heat as thermal pollution (Kraushaar & Ristinen, 1993, p186). China's Three Gorges Project is expected to produce 84 billion kilowatt hours which is equal to a coal mine that extracts 40 - 50 million tons of coal per year. China presently uses coal to generate three quarters of its energy which releases carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere (Three Dams Project, http://www.dur.ac.uk/~des0www4/cal/dams/othe/3dams.htm, 15/09/00). These emissions contribute to global warming, so dam construction and purpose use can help reduce this threat to the environment.
While dams are generally viewed as being environmentally unsound, they can also be seen as preventing environmental degradation. Nine out of ten Nepalese...