China’s Three Gorges Dam Comes of Age

The water level of the Three Gorges Dam is about to reach its highest level, marking the completion of the massive hydro-electric project. Asia Times reports on the continued controversy over the dam:

Unlike 12 years ago, when Beijing staged elaborate celebrations to mark the diversion of the Yangtze on the spot of the future dam, this time around officials and engineers are marking the completion of the dam in a low-profile manner.

At home they are facing criticism that the filling of the dam is exacerbating the drought afflicting the river’s delta. Abroad, where China has attempted to export its Three Gorges model of generating economic growth through huge hydropower works, Chinese engineers are being confronted with homegrown opposition to such projects. Chinese diplomats are seeing a rising tide of discontent with Beijing’s expansion of hydropower diplomacy across Asia and Africa.

Yet perhaps the most compelling reason for holding back the fireworks is that the Three Gorges Dam stands as a monument to obsolete ambitions. As China increasingly turns to new forms of renewable energy and even claims leadership in the next wave of green development, the dam sends a signal of confused priorities.
“The Three Gorges dam is a model of the past,” says Peter Bosshard, the policy director of California-based International Rivers, whose avowed mission is “to protect rivers and the communities that depend on them”.

“There are smarter ways of generating energy and managing floods than by building outdated mega-projects,” adds Bosshard.

November 3, 2009 11:07 AM
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