The Three Gorges Dam and reservoir has been a controversial topic ever since it was first proposed, and there has been a resurgence of reports of problems in recent weeks. That there are issues in terms of landslides, algae blooms and other problems is entirely unsurprising.
The dam is one of the largest, if not the largest, hydroelectric and reservoir projects in the world, the water levels in the dam area are up more than 100 meters in some places compared to the old river levels, and hundreds of thousands of people have been relocated to make way for the waters. This was obviously going to have an impact on the land, water and climate, and lo and behold, it did.
The government needs to make sure people are safe, predict where landslides might happen and move villagers before rather than after the fact. But the other side to this story is that along the river/reservoir, there are thousands of new buildings, two and three storey houses built by or for people moved from down below. The houses are far better quality than those they used to live in, and the waters are now calmer and more predictable. The towns along the shores of the river/reservoir are clearly more prosperous than ever before.
There are inevitably people who have suffered in this massive shift in the life and structure of an entire region. There are people who did not get the money they were promised, or the amount they believed they deserved. But in a random poll of hundreds of residents of the Gorges region, CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW failed to find even one who believed the dam had created a negative impact on their lives. That is not to say that everyone is hugely supportive, but it gives context to the media reports focusing on outspoken critics.
The bottom line is that the dam is not going to be demolished, and the waters are never going to return to their previous levels. It was and is naturally a massive wrench for this 600-kilometer stretch of the Yangtze River to be changed from a river into a lake, and it will take time for the water, the land, the people and the algae to find a new balance. But somehow a new balance will be found.
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