Problems Caused by Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam Project, the world's largest hydropower project brings many benefits to Chinese people. However, many problems also accompany the project from the proposal to present day. These Three Gorges Dam problems mainly include:

More Sediment in Upper Riverbeds and Three Gorges Reservoir

The increasing sediment is one of the main Three Gorges Dam disasters. After the Three Gorges Dam was constructed and the water level of upper reaches was raised, the upper river flows more slowly than before and the sand and rocks cannot be rushed down in time and are piled up in the river beds and reservoir. As time passes by, the upper stream river beds will be raised higher and higher, which leads to flood more easily.

Threat to Downstream Riverbanks and Yangtze River Delta

Due to the sedimentation in the upper stream, the water becomes purer and erodes the downstream river banks more easily. In such a situation, the banks are easier to collapse, which is a great danger to people and the country, especially when there is a flood. In addition, less sediments make the land of Yangtze Estuary shrink and seawater pours backward to the coast. In the past, Shanghai in the Yangtze estuary stretched 40 meters (44 yards) a year averagely to the sea; now the city faces the threat from ocean instead.

Many Aquatic Creatures Are Endangered.

Because of the dam, fishes cannot pass the Three Gorges and migrate like before, and thus their living habits and heredity change. Meanwhile, the reservoir area was the spawning site of some fishes, which was destroyed with the construction of dam. A number of rare water creatures living in the Yangtze are in the danger of extinction, such as the Yangtze hilsa herring and Chinese sturgeon.

Increased Geological Disasters.

As the construction of Three Gorges Dam forced the surrounding geological environment change, geological disasters occur more frequently in the reservoir area. Landslide, debris flow and earthquake are the common occurrence. Possible disastrous sites also increased by 4,000.

Climate Change of Yangtze River Basin

A Lot of Cultural Relics and Historical Sites Were Submerged.With the Three Gorges Dam, the water area in the upstream becomes much larger, but the area of lakes and wetlands downstream decreases. More water area, more water evaporates. Similarly, less water, less evaporation. The change impacts the microclimate of Yangtze River Basin. Therefore, the conditions of drought, flood and temperature along the Yangtze River are different from the past. For instance, within a range of 1 - 2 kilometers (0.6 - 1.2 miles) of the Three Gorges Reservoir, the average annual temperature increases by 0.1-0.2 ° C, the average temperature in winter and spring increases by 0.3-1.3 ° C, but in summer decreases by 0.9-1.2 ° C.

A Lot of Cultural Relics and Historical Sites Were Submerged.

To build Three Gorges Dam, a great amount of historical sites with cultural relics are submerged or partly submerged, including over 60 sites of Paleolithic Age, over 80 Neolithic Age sites, and more than 470 historical sites from Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) to Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing (1644 - 1911 AD) Dynasties. It is an indelible Three Gorges Dam disaster and a great cultural loss of Chinese ancient civilization, although some cultural relics were moved away and relocated in advance. The flooded cultural sites include Qu Yuan Temple, Baiheliang (White Crane Ridge), Daxi Culture Heritage Site, Zhang Fei Temple, Qutang Gorge Ancient Plank Road, White Emperor City, Shibaozhai (Precious Stone Fortress), etc. What a great pity!

See also: Scenery Change after Three Gorges Dam Completed 

Precious Stone Fortress is partly submerged in the water
Precious Stone Fortress
is partly submerged in the water.
The ancient plank road is submerged in the water
The ancient plank road
is submerged in the water.

The Spread of Schistosomiasis Westward

Schistosomiasis is a kind of parasitic disease that seriously endangers human health. In the past, schistosomiasis occurs in lower reach of Yangtze River only, for the river snail that carry germs of schistosomiasis cannot survive in rapid flowing water. Now, the water in Three Gorges Reservoir is clam and flows gently, which provides the suitable living conditions for the river snail. Thus schistosomiasis spread westward to Three Gorges area, Chongqing and Sichuan province.

A Large Human Migration of Over 1.2 Million

Migration is one of the biggest Three Gorges Dam problems. After the reservoir began to store water, about 129 cities and towns are flooded, and more than 1.2 million people in Hubei and Chongqing needed to migrate in batches. They had to leave their beloved hometowns and be allocated to Hubei and Chongqing outside the reservoir area, Anhui, Hunan, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Fujian and Guangdong provinces to start afresh.

Further Reading
Three Gorges Dam Benefits: 5 Major Advantages

Three Gorges Dam Pros and Cons

- Last updated on Apr. 15, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Problems Caused by Three Gorges Dam
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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