For more than 30 years, the Chinese government has been dismissing warnings from scientists and environmentalists that its Three Gorges Dam could become one of its biggest environmental nightmares. Last fall, Chinese officials finally acknowledges for the first time that the massive hydroelectric dam may be triggering landslides in the area, altering the ecosystem, causing other environmental problems, and endangering millions of lives.
Government officials have defended the $24-billion project as a source of renewable energy, with the capability of producing 18,000 megawatts of power. But now they are acknowledging “hidden dangers” that cannot be ignored any longer.
“We simply cannot sacrifice the environment in exchange for temporary economic gain,” Wang Xiaofeng, who oversees the project for China’s State Council, said during a meeting.
China is already seeing the impacts from the damage, including drought, landslides, and “the potential for increased disease.” This seems to verify concerns from human rights activists in the 1990s, who voiced concern about the people who were forced to relocate for the structure. To date, the government has ordered around 1.2 million people to be evacuated to other areas. But the dam could still endanger existing residents.
One of the largest fears at hand is that the dam could trigger severe earthquakes because the reservoir sits on the Jiuwanxi and the Zigui-Badong—two major faults.
The dam is also already taking a toll on China’s animals and plants. At least 57 plant species have already been endangered.
Source: Scientific American