The building of the three gorges dam in china was envisioned in the International Development of China policy paper of 1919 by the then Chinese leader Sun Yat-Sen. It wasn’t until 1992, under the leadership of Li Peng, that the Chinese National People congress approved the project. The construction started on 14th December 1994.
Flood control and production of hydroelectric power were the two main reasons for construction of the three gorges dam. The dam spans the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei province. When fully completed, the dam is expected to increase income through increased industrialization and employment. The dam is also going to improve river navigation and reduce Greenhouse gas emission. Negative impacts include displacement of millions of people and destruction of the eco system.
Cost Analysis of Three gorges dam
Three Gorges Dam project is to be completed by 2011, by the time which a total of 180 billion Yuan, translating to US $28 Billion, will have been spent. It is important to note that initial projection had estimated that the dam would cost 104 billion Yuan. The source of the fund for project includes Loans from China Development bank and local and foreign bank , revenues generated from the already operational Gezhouba dam, Three Gorges Dam Construction fund, Corporate Bonds and revenues generated from sections of three gorges dam that have already been completed.
The cost of construction of the three gorges dam will be recovered by the year 2021, ten years after the completion of the dam. It is expected that the dam will have the capacity to produce over 1000 billion KWH of electricity which will be sold at to three provinces at a projected price of 250 billion Yuan.
When completed, the Three Gorges Dam project will bring major economical transformation in the areas surrounding the dam. The place will be home to the largest Hydro-electric power projects in the world. The area is currently experiencing the fastest industrialization due to availability of power from Three Gorges Dam. The water ways are now easy to navigate leading to improved transportation. Delivery of raw materials to the area and transportation of finished goods to the market is done with ease, resulting to increased economical growth. The area is also attracting massive labor force due to it increased growth. There are plans to build an international airport connecting the area to other major cities in China and the rest of the world. Railway transport is being modernized and expanded to cover greater region. With reduced flooding, the area is expected to be improved agricultural bases, resulting to increased agricultural production.
The construction of three gorges dam has both negative and positive externalities associated with environment, economy, navigation and relocation
Reduction in Greenhouse Gases Emission
China is the fastest growing economy in the world, the need for energy to power up industries is so huge. China is in direct competition with developed nation like US and Britain for fuel in Africa and Middle East. Currently, China depends heavily on burning of coal for electricity production. The amount of coal used in China has a potential of emitting 1000 million tons of dust, sulfur dioxide, greenhouse gases, nitric oxide, mercury dioxide and carbon monoxide.
When in full operation, the Three Gorges Dam has a capacity to produce 1000 billion KWH of electricity. This will greatly reduce China dependence on coal leading to reduced environmental damages. Reduced use of coal will result in decreased mining activities, which in turn reduce environmental degrading. Another important aspect that can not be overlooked is reduction in Power consumption in coal mines. This will lead to availability of more power for use in other industries.
Coal is mined in northern China and transported by rail or road to the East and South china. Reduced usage will result in reduced transportation cost.
Waste Water Treatment
Before construction of the Three Gorges Dam, most industries and suburban located along Yangtze River used to damp waste water in to the river without any regards to aquatic life. Today, authority have installed over 60 waste water treatment plants, handling over 2.0 million tones of waste water on a daily basis, which is treated and dumped into the three Gorges Dam. This has reduced greatly negative impacts resulting from water pollution.
Flood control was the most significant function of the Three Gorges Dam. Flooding has been a major problem causing massive havoc to million of people who settled down stream of river Yangtze. People living in cities like Nanjing, Wuhan and Shanghai, located along the river suffered during flood seasons. A pointing case is the 1954 floods which flooded over 48 million acres of lands, resulting to death of over 33,000 people and displacing over 18 million people. The three gorges dam has the capacity to divert flood water, resulting in reduced flooding. The storage reservoir has capacity to store 22 cubic kilometers of water.
Three Gorges Dam constructions have resulted to creation of ship locks and ship lifts which will make ship navigation in the river much safer than before. River transportation can now handle over 50 million tones of goods on an annual basis. This is expected to result in reduced cost of transportation and increase economical growth.
Construction of Three Gorges Dam has resulted in alteration of the ecosystem along Yangtze River. Endangered species inhabiting Three Gorges winter wetland face extinction after the habitat was destroyed by the dam. Species which faces extinction includes the Siberian Crane, the rare bleed Baiji dolphins, white monkey, giant panda and the Sturgeon. It is important to note that China is home to more than 10% of plant and animal species which are found no where else in the world. The Three Gorges area accounts for more than 20% of seed plants and 6,000 animal species, all which face extinction as a result of the construction of the dam.
High lever of pollution as a result of increased activities on Yangtze River have also contributed to degraded ecosystem. Massive logging was done during the initial stages of construction. Economic development has resulted to increased deforestation lead to destabilization of soil. The resulting effect of Soil erosion is endangering more than 60 plant species which includes the dawn redwood and the Chinese dive tree. The river banks are now more prone to erosion resulting to siltation. This leads to build up of silt in the dam reservoir making generation of electricity less effective.
Downstream at the mouth of East China Sea where river Yangtze empties its content, the area is densely populated by communities who depend on fishing as their main source of food and income. Construction of the dam has resulted to decrease flow of fish down stream from the Yangtze flood plain resulting to over fishing and depletion of important fish species. Decrease flow of fresh water makes salty sea water to move upstream causing the number of jelly fish in the Yangtze River to increase. This sea fish in turn competes for fresh water food with river fish and consumes their egg, endangering the population of fresh water fish.
Constructions of the three gorges dam has resulted in altered climate change reading to rise of microbial water borne diseases. Snail fever is one disease that is caused by altered environmental variables. The disease is transmitted by snail to humans especially when humans come into contact with contaminated water. The diseases was not common, but studies have shown increase in reported cases of snail fever whose symptoms includes fever, weight loss, urine with blood, nauseas, persistent cough, appetite loss and diarrhea.
Increased cases of earth quake and landslides in areas surrounding the Three Gorge Dam have been attributed to the filling of dam reservoir. Tonnes of water seep into the loose soil destabilizing the lands. This makes the land to be prone earth quakes. During the flood season, the water in the reservoir is drained partially to create space to accommodate flood water. Draining and filling of the reservoir cause abrupt change in water pressure further disturbing the lands.
In 2006, residence of Miahoe area, just 10miles from the dam, up stream Yangtze River, experienced 650 wide land cracks soon after the draining of the reservoir to accommodate flood water. Emergency arrangement had to be made to evacuate residence of the area as many homes were destroyed. It is feared that the dam might trigger massive earthquakes in future as it is built on the Jiuwanxi and Zigui fault lines.
National Security Threat
The massive three Gorges dam is seen as threats to China national security especially in the events that it is targeted by terrorist groups. It is important to note that China has been experiencing internal conflicts as Taiwan and Tibet seek autonomy from the main Land China. It is feared that the Taiwan based, Military republic of China, could destroy the dam as a show of anger toward the People Liberation government of China in their bid to press for independence from China.
Displacement of People
Displacement caused by the construction of Three Gorges Dam is the biggest in China History. Already, over 1.2 million people, mostly farmers, residing along the Yangtze River have been displaced. China government failed from the beginning to involve local residence in designing and construction of the dam. This led to rejection of the projects by the locals. Plans to build houses and resettle those displaced never materialized and the displaced experience high rates of unemployment’s. Many people depend on government food ration as it is hard to get new farmland. Over 60% of those displaced are leaving below the poverty line.
To fully resettle and compensate those who have been displaced, the Chinese government will spend an estimated 195 billion Yuan. The government had initially set aside 40 billion Yuan only for the exercise. Currently, only less than 10% of those who were displaced have been resettled. Another 4 million are set to be displaced before the completion of the dam in 2011.
By the time the Dam Project is completed, an estimated 1,600 factories and sizeable enterprises based along the Yangtze River will have been displaced. Industries that are built up in the areas to take advantages of power availability don’t have the capacity to absorb those who have been rendered jobless due to displacement.
With the Three Gorges Dam almost in completion, it is evident that the underlying costs could outweigh the perceived benefits. The dam has major negative social, economical and environmental impacts which can not be overlooked at the expense of the benefits. The Chinese government should move with speed to settle all those who have been displaced as a result of the construction of the dam and offer them alternative source of income. It is regrettable to note that most of those displaced are small scale farmer who might not be having necessary skills to work in industries created in Hubei and Sichuan provinces.
Those enterprises and factories which have been forced to close as a result of rising water levels should be given the first priority in the setting up business and factory bases in safer areas to take advantages of the resources and infrastructures within The Three Gorge Dam area.
A significant percentage of revenues generated from three gorges dam should be channeled toward environmental conservation to reduce negative impacts caused by the dam to the ecosystem.
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