Problems Caused by Three Gorges Project

The Three Gorges Dam Project, the world's largest hydropower project at present, has experienced 75 years from conception, exploration, programming to the go-ahead. Dr. Sun Yat-sen first proposed the idea. In 1992, after a long period of repeated discussions, researches and arguments, the construction was finally commenced.

Like a baby, Three Gorges Dam is growing with the tender care and under the watchful eye of the Chinese people as well as with interest from abroad. Its every growing step, no matter how hard it is, is recorded by history. The strong voice of announcing the beginning of the project still vibrates across the country. Industrious workers showed their radiant smiles to the world after finishing the last step of each concrete cast. The exciting news of Three Gorges Project cheered people up. The dam project ceaselessly brings us the good news.

However, many problems also accompany the project from the proposal to the finish. The early disputes stressed on the economic and technical factors. It was generally accepted that these two factors could not support the construction of the project and the problem of migration was hard to be settled. After 1980s, by the progress of reform and opening up policy, the problems over the project have largely covered politics, economy, environment, migration, tourism and the protection of the cultural relics.

Sediment Problem

Sediment problem is always a heavy emphasis on the discussion of the Three Gorges Project. It is measured that the river sediment concentration of the upper stream is about 1.2kg per cubic meter. The total sediment passing the dam site is above five hundred million a year. Before the dam project, the mud and sand deposited largely in Jingjiang River, which has lifted the water level and menaced the safety of Jianghan (Yangtze River and Hanjiang River) Plain and Dongting Lake Plain. After the finish of the project, the silt must deposit in the dam and the end of the reservoir due to the backwater. Especially the large-sized pebbles, hard to be discharged, they will extend to the upper stream and influence further to Chongqing City. This fact arouses people's worry about the sediment problem in the Three Gorges.

Environmental Problem

The Three Gorges Project has a great influence on the environment and ecology of the reservoir area and the Yangtze River. The biggest concern is the pollution of the reservoir. After the water storage, due to the steady state of the fluent, the contaminant cannot down rush in time and store up in the reservoir, which would deteriorate water quality and cause refuse floating, and probably trigger the epidemic. At present, some towns have started collecting potable water in other area, and while a great number of migrants are opening up the wasteland, the soil erosion and water pollution are growing in intensity.

According to the operational experience of Gezhouba hydropower station, the dam would furiously challenge the surrounding ecology. Because of the dam, fishes cannot normally pass the Three Gorges, and thus their living habits and heredity will change. After the finish of the water storage, over 560 kinds of land rare plants will be flooded. Experts have to transplant certain varieties which do not distribute over other places.

Migration Problem

Precious Stone Fortress is partly submerged in the water
Precious Stone Fortress 
is partly submerged in the water.
Migration problem is the biggest difficult point of the Three Gorges Dam Project. The fund for migration covers 45% of the total investment. After the water storage, about 129 cities and towns including Wanxian and Fuling are flooded. The migrants surpass 1200,000, relating to 20 cities and counties in Hubei and Chongqing. They were allocated to Hubei (outside the reservoir area), Chongqing (outside the reservoir area), Anhui, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Fujian and Guangdong provinces to make a living.

Besides, many migrants are building their new homes around the dam area. But the current situation is that though the infrastructure construction is rapid, the industry develops slowly, a great number of enterprises went bankrupt, the unemployment rate is high and the income of peasants falls, which has brought a lot of social impacts.

Landscape Loss

The ancient plank road is submerged in the water
The ancient plank road 
is submerged in the water.
As the water storage of the Three Gorges Dam, the rising Yangtze River has flooded a part of the landscape. Scenery changes a lot compared before the dam construction. According to a survey, the flooded natural scenery includes Military Books and Precious Sword Gorge, Dragon Gate Gorge, Ox Liver and Horse Lung Gorge, Hanging Monk Rock, Bayan Gorge, Guandao Gorge, Water Curtain Cave and Phoenix Spring. The flooded cultural sights include Quyuan Temple, White Crane Ridge, Daxi Culture, Zhangfei Temple, Dachang ancient city, Fengjie ancient city, Kongming Tablet, Chalk Wall, Mengliang Stairway, Dragon Backbone Stone and Qutang Gorge ancient plank road. The partly submerged natural landscape includes Bawu Gorge, Dicui Gorge, Wu Gorge, Qutang Gorge, Kongdong Gorge and Luyou Cave. The partly submerged cultural sights include White Emperor City, Precious Stone Fortress, Fengdu Mountain, Huanghua Town, Daning River ancient plank road, suspended coffin in Longmen Gorge, Zhongzhou ancient city and Xituo ancient city.

It is a great pity that so many scenic sights have forever disappeared. The experts have tried their best to save them as much as possible. They moved some to the new sites, transferred some to museums or took photos as a reference to later reproduction. Splendid efforts have been made to reduce the loss to the minimum size.
- Last modified on May. 17, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on Problems Caused by Three Gorges Project
Asked by Steve from UNITED STATES | Apr. 12, 2016 12:14Reply
Is the Three Gorges Dam interchangeable with the ever growing need for silt?
Answers (1)
Answered by Zheng from HK | Apr. 14, 2016 00:48

Do you mean the solutions against deposited silt? As far as I know, the sand and silt are sluiced or disilted near the dam. As for the upstream areas, more trees were planted to prevent the soil erosion. Cascading dams were also built to reduce the volume of drifting sand at the lower reach. The government will keep looking for other more effective solutions to solve this problem.
Asked by Barbara Guth | Feb. 21, 2016 05:21Reply
Was the 1998 flood caused by the Three Gorges Dam?
Answers (2)
Answered by Jeremy from USA | Feb. 22, 2016 01:59

No, that flood was not caused by the dam project. It was a natural catastrophe covering all the water area in China, not only the Yangtze River basin.
Answered by juan from SOUTH AFRICA | Apr. 24, 2016 15:53

no it was not. the yangtze is a naturally flooding river. the dam was built to tame the river. the dam was not at a stage that could affect the river in a disastrous way such as a flood.
Asked by K from UNITED KINGDOM | Feb. 17, 2016 07:40Reply
Why is the Three Gorges Project bad for the environment?People say it's amazing.
But doesn't it pollute?the water and damage the local wildlife?
Answers (1)
Answered by Chen from HONG KONG | Feb. 17, 2016 20:30

As far as I know, it has already brought some problems to the environment. The pollutants during the construction of the reservoir would be submerged under the water. On the other hand, the reservoir intercepts the water from flowing down. The volumn at the lower stream is very less. The living condition for the wildlife would be damaged which would cause the decline in the number.
Asked by CK from CHINA | Apr. 08, 2015 07:28Reply
Is the 3 gorges dam the most environmentally friendly project built by humans?
Answers (4)
Answered by Daniel from MACEDONIA | Apr. 09, 2015 03:11

CK, it does benefit Chinese people, especially those who live in the lower reaches of he Yangtze River. At least, they won't be afraid of encountering the floods they met before the dam was built. On the other hand, the dam also generates a lot of electricity. However, it does bring some environmental problems. Some experts say that the unsual weather conditions in Sichuan Province has something to do with the dam. In Chongqing, it's getting hoter than before. The lakes in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River dry up during the drought period.
Answered by Swakhi from SD | Oct. 31, 2015 01:15

CK, Thing is, it isn't. But not only does it generate energy to China, it theoretically generates energy for the whole world because PRC is the World's Manufacturer.
Answered by JIMBO from WISCONSIN | Nov. 18, 2015 10:03

It most certainly does effect us I agree completly
Answered by Pablo from MEXICO | Mar. 11, 2016 11:46

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