The Dam Breaks – Washington Post editorial

From Washington Post:

For China’s communist leadership, which gathers today for a major party congress, the gigantic Three Gorges Dam holds out the promise of abundant hydroelectric power and an end to devastating periodic floods along the Yangtze River. Yet from the moment they hatched a plan to build the colossal project, China’s leaders have known that its benefits would come at a high environmental cost. Undeterred, they ignored or repressed dissent about it. One prominent early critic, journalist Dai Qing, was jailed for 10 months after the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989; her book “Yangtze! Yangtze!” was suppressed. Even then, the threats posed by the $22 billion project in Hubei province were so evident that one-third of the delegates to China’s rubber-stamp national legislature either abstained or voted against it in 1993. Undaunted, the government began construction in 1994 and has relocated 1.4 million mostly poor rural villagers to make way for a 370-mile-long, 525-foot-deep reservoir. The dam’s first stage opened in 2003, permitting cargo vessels to travel from Shanghai to Chongqing; eventually, its turbines are supposed to generate 84 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. [Full Text]

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