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three gorges dam



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Three Gorges Dam - The Great Wall Across the Yangtze

The Yangtze River

The Yangtze River
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When completed, the $25 billion Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. With an installed generating capacity of 18,200 MW, the dam will span more than two kilometers across, and tower 185 meters above, the world’s third longest river. Its reservoir will stretch over 600 kilometers upstream and force the displacement of more than 1.3 million people. Construction began in 1994 and is scheduled for completion by 2009. Construction on the dam itself was completed in May 2006.

Demolition in Guizhou, Central China

Smoke and dust rise after demolition efforts begin in the town of Guizhou in Central China’s Hubei Province to make way for the Three Gorges Dam Project.

The project has been plagued by massive corruption problems, spiraling costs, technological problems, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties. One million people have been displaced by the dam as of 2006; many are living under poor conditions with no recourse to address outstanding problems with compensation or resettlement. Said one peasant from Kai county, "We have been to the county government many times demanding officials to solve our problems, but they said this was almost impossible. They have threatened us with arrest if we appeal for help from higher government offices."

The environmental impacts of the project are extensive. The submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and waste dumps, and the presence of massive industrial centers upstream are creating serious pollution problems in the reservoir and the tributaries of the Yangtze. For five months every year when high water levels are lowered to accommodate the summer floods, a festering bog of effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish will remain in the previously submerged areas. This will create a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, bacteria and parasites, threatening the health of surrounding populations.

The dam is also affecting one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. Scientists estimate that annual catches may be reduced by one million tons due to the decline in fresh water and sediment reaching the sea. The Yangtze delta and tidal wetlands are already being badly eroded the loss of sediment.

Despite protests by Chinese citizens and media scrutiny of the project’s impacts, private banks and export credit agencies have provided considerable financial support for the Three Gorges Dam. IRN has worked to call attention to the project’s enormous environmental and social impacts and to lobby financial institutions to refrain from supporting the project.


Three Gorges Revisited
Sichuan Geologist Fan Xiao Travels to the Three Gorges reservoir area, and reports on aspects of the project that continue to trouble Chinese experts. Published in Chinese National Geographic and translated by Three Gorges Probe.
Three Gorges Dam Fact Box
Just about everything you might want to know about the world’s biggest dam, at least in terms of its facts, figures, cubic meters and kilowatts. Compiled by Three Gorges Probe.
Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake
Linda Butler made eight trips to the Yangtze to photograph the people, the human environment, and the natural landscape before, during, and after the Three Gorges Dam changed the river basin forever. A large-format photo book with essays.
Human Rights Dammed Off at Three Gorges, An Investigation of Resettlement and Human Rights Problems in the Three Gorges Project
By Yi Ming, researcher and journalist. Published by International Rivers Network.
Three Gorges Video
See video footage of demolished Three Gorges housing, residents, and cultural sites (Real Player Required).

latest additions

Dam Puts Shanghai Wetlands at Sea’s Mercy
Tidal wetlands on the Yangtze delta near Shanghai are in danger of disappearing because of sediment trapped in the Three Gorges Dam, New Scientist, April 19, 2006.
The Dammed: Environmentalists Watch and Wait for Opening of World’s Largest Dam
By Clifford Coonan, The Independent (UK), March 17, 2006.
Three Gorges Dam Threatens Vast Fishery
The Three Gorges Dam is already threatening one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. By Jessica Marshall, New Scientist, February 25, 2006.
Additional Information

Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director

International Rivers Network


Phone: +1 510-848-1155