The Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and most notorious dam. The massive project sets records for number of people displaced (more than 1.2 million), number of cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages), and length of reservoir (more than 600 kilometres). The project has been plagued by corruption, spiralling costs, environmental impacts, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties.
Since the beginning of the Han Dynasty 2,300 years ago, there have been 214 major floods recorded, averaging 1 flood every ten years. Within this past century, there have been five major floods that were recorded to have claimed hundreds of millions of lives, millions of acres of farmland, destroyed thousands of homes, and billions of dollars of damage. In 1998, a flood of such catastrophic level in the Three Gorges area caused 4,000 casualties, left 14 million people homeless, and created $24 billion in economic loss.
The proponents of the Three Gorges Dam believe that it will serve to protect 15 million people and 1.5 million acres of farmland in areas of the Yangtze River that are vulnerable to flooding. In order to do this, the water height of the reservoir upstream from the dam will change according to season. During the dry season, from November to April, the water level will be allowed to reach 185 meters above sea level, but during the flooding months, the water level will be reduced to 135 meters in order to attempt to contain flood waters.
The Three Gorges Dam will substantially benefit China's economic development. It is commonly known that energy is critical to economic development, particularly in a country where heavy industry is the future. By supplying roughly 10% of China's electricity, this dam adds to economic production like no other single dam has in history. This will be critical to China's economic development moving forward.