NOTE: I posted on this way back in September. Today, it made the front page of the damnable Washington Post

Remember Chernobyl? Well, the Chinese, not to be outdone, are about to show the world that state planning can and often does result in widespread environmental disaster. Except this time, it might starve a billion people.

By Edward Cody:

In the 18 months since the Three Gorges Dam was completed, increasingly clear signs of environmental degradation have started to accumulate along the Yangtze, just as activists had warned. Among the most troubling have been incidents of geological instability in the soaring gorges that now embrace a reservoir stretching behind the dam across a good portion of Hubei province 600 miles southwest of Beijing.

Local officials acknowledge that dozens of major landslides have been recorded, affecting more than 20 miles of riverbank.

The Chinese, who had been talking about taming the Yangtze for a century, finally realized their dream of the Three Gorges in May 2006, when the dam was declared finished in a burst of national chest-thumping. From the beginning, Communist Party officials had acknowledged that the massive engineering project would entail environmental risks and upset the lives of riverside peasants. An estimated 1.2 million were forced to move to make way for backed-up water. But the damage could be controlled, the party and government insisted, and overall, the benefits still would outweigh the dangers.

The $24 billion dam played its assigned role in controlling the river during the annual flood season this summer. Moreover, the 7,575-foot-wide (almost 1.5-mile) structure has dramatically increased China’s supply of clean electricity, producing 23.7 billion kilowatt hours in the first half of this year. The reservoir and swollen upstream river waters, reaching about 250 miles to Chongqing, have given the center of the country a trouble-free transportation lane.

But the breaking-in period has also shown how vast the environmental damage is likely to be — and how expensive to handle. Lei Hengshun, an engineering professor at Chongqing University who has followed the Three Gorges project since its inception, said it has opened a “bottomless pit” of government expenditures that will have to go on for decades.

(. . .)

Read the rest of the story here.

WAC

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