The Three Gorges Dam project is one of the most controversial international river issues. The dam would cross the Yangtze River, which is a the third largest river in the world, at a point where the river is a mile wide. The 610 foot dam would create a 39 billion cubic meter reservoir that would stretch for 400 miles. 3 Not only is this the largest dam ever built, it is the largest construction undertaking. Financial backing has come from many national and international sources, including United States companies. China has also sought outside engineering and construction consulting from companies including Caterpillar Construction Company.
A dam on the Yangtze River was first proposed by Sun Yatsen in 1919 for power generation purposes. This prosoal never came about because of economic and political strife. Many leaders dreamed of taming the Yangtze River. Life along the Yangtze River can be treacherous because of the deadly flooding known to devastate cities and lives. 6
Most of the controversy involves the relocation of a million people who live in areas to be submerged, the potential loss of many archeological artifacts, and the environmental disruption the dam will cause. Dai Qing, a Chinese journalist wrote the book, Yangtze! Yangtze!, which protested the dam in 1989. The book was banned and Qing was imprisoned for 11 months. 5 This type of behavior on the part of the Chinese government has made many skeptical about possible corruption in the project.
China has also recieved much criticism for the expensive and risky project. Many say that building smaller dams along the river rather than one enormous dam would be more efficient. Some have even claimed the dam is being used as a monument to the success of socialism. 5.
Phillip Williams of the International Rivers Network says, "There is a grandiosity that appeals to a megalomaniac instinct that overrides not only economic considerations but sometimes even sound political judgment."
Completion dates are set for 2009 and by 2003 China should be able to start generating power for the nation.
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2. Ni Chen, "Public Relations Education in the People's Republic of China." Journalism Educator, Spring 1994, p. 14-22.
3. David Coffey, "Coverage of China's Three Gorges Dam in the Globe and Mail and New York Times. Master's Thesis, University of Florida 1996.
4. Jim Malusa, "Valley of the Dammed." The Discovery Channel, (premiered) January 10, 1997
5. "Great Wall Across the Yangtze" PBS brodcast televsion http://www.pbs.org/greatwall
6. "Three Gorges Dam Project" http://www.chinaonline.com/refer/ministry_profiles/threegorgesdam.html
1. Photo of the Three Gorges area on the Yangtze River. Photo courtesy of http://www.arts.unimelb.edu.au/amu/ucr/student/1996/b.bill/china.htm
2. Photo of Dai Qing, author of Yangtze! Yangtze. Photo courtesy of www.PBS.org