China's Three Gorges Dam

China's Three Gorges Dam is a massive project to create a reservoir. Huge ocean-going freighters will be able to sail directly into the nation's interior, opening a region expanding with agricultural and manufactured products. The dam's hydropower turbines are expected to create as much electricity as 18 nuclear power plants. The reservoir is also expected to prevent the severe floods of the Yangzi River.

Officials hope the combination of inexpensive electricity and cheap river transportation will open the region to international investment.

The great expectations surrounding the Three Gorges Dam project have caused controversy within China and abroad. Concerns have arisen about the dam itself, including the fear of sloppy construction.

Engineers and journalists who criticize the project have been jailed. One person calls Three Gorges "the most environmentally and socially destructive project in the world."

The dam might become an environmental disaster. The supervisors have not removed toxic materials and other potential pollutants from industrial sites that will be flooded. Experts say such materials could seep into the reservoir, creating a health hazard.

The dam might actually contribute to the silt build-up in the Yangzi, preventing larger ships from traveling the river.

Some people doubt whether the huge amount of electricity generated by the Three Gorges project can be efficiently and economically absorbed by China's electrical system.

The dam will "drown" more than 100 towns once the water starts to rise. About 1.2 million people will be resettled, and new land is being provided for 300,000 farmers. Some observers say the government may be underestimating the number of people who need to be relocated. Much the farmland that will be lost under the reservoir's waters is some of the most fertile in China. Archaeologists and historians have estimated nearly 1,300 important sites will disappear under the reservoir's waters.

There are also worries that corruption and poor construction will lead to delays and sub-standard new housing.

Source: China's Three Gorges Dam
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