While the Three Gorges Dam was under construction, it was celebrated by China’s leaders as a symbol of economic and technological progress. With a capacity of 18,200 megawatts, it is the world’s biggest hydropower plant and generates about 2 percent of the country’s electricity. Yet since the dam project was completed in 2008, its massive social, environmental and geological impacts have become ever more apparent. At the same time, recurrent droughts have placed a question mark over the project’s expected benefits.
On May 18, China’s State Council acknowledged the serious problems of the Three Gorges Dam in an unexpected statement. “The project is now greatly benefiting the society in the aspects of flood prevention, power generation, river transportation and water resource utilization,” the council maintained, but it has also “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of the relocated communities.” On the same day, the government announced specific measures to improve the living conditions of the people displaced by the dam, protect the Yangtze’s ecosystem and prevent geological disasters.
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