back to article Three Gorges Dam an 'environmental catastrophe'

Chinese officials have admitted that the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River will, in the absence of urgent preventative action, provoke an ecological and environmental "catastrophe", the Times reports. The shock confession confirms what opponents of the £13bn project have always maintained, and officials have now …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they want to go public before the troubles start?

    And say what exactly? We messed up now shut the fuck up or you go in the hole..... OK in the hole!

  2. laird cummings

    Before the trouble starts?

    Those twats were told loud and clear back *before* they broke ground that this was going to be a wold-class fiasco, and what did they say?

    "Baseless alarmism."

    Too bad that in getting to the truth, the Chinese gov't has totally shafted millions of people, not to mention doing possibly irreparable harm to the river and the gorges.

  3. Andy Barber

    Yangtze Dolphin

    Oh, so now that they have made the Yangtze Dolphin extinct, they realize there might be something wrong!!

  4. Anton Ivanov

    @Before the trouble starts


    You do not understand the mechanics of such projects in a totalitarian state.

    It all starts like this:

    Once upon a time a small department consisting of mostly engineers is created to build a dam. Over the years, the department grows, accumulates burocrats and resources and finally delivers the dam. By that time it is a small empire (even a small dam takes a lot to build) and all these people need work. To keep themselves employed they justify building a bigger and better dam elsewhere. Rinse, repeat until in 30 years it builds Three gorges or tries to divert Lena into the deserts of Kazahstan.

    In a western style economy there is a cap on the size to which such an outfit can grow.

    In a totalitarian economy there is no upper limit. Before the fall of USSR Hydrostroy had a budget second only to the military and was considering f*** up the geology, ecology and climate on a planetary scale. The Chinese are simply following the same development path and they will end up with a similar list of disasters.

    In USSR Hydrostroy made a total mess of Volga by building a cascade on it which rivals the great lakes, f*** up one sea - the Aral, f*** up totally the ecology of most Middle Asia, f*** up totally the climate of a huge chunk of Siberia around Krasnoyarsk, nearly f*** up lake Baikal and so on. It was stopped solely by the fall of the USSR. Prior to that nothing could stop it. There are similar stories in other ex-Soviet states. Just look at a Bulgarian map for an example how the Soviet leadership can be overtaken and exceeded.

    Chinese are not there yet. They definitely will be, because the power base of their water driven eco-geo-climate disaster delivery apparatus has passed the critical mass. There is no way to stop it now short of dismantling the Chinese state.

    So all we can say about 3 gorges is "watch this space". More idiocy to come. The number of warnings and forecasts simply does not matter.

  5. Jack Prichard

    What would you expect?

    People get the government, officials and in this case hydro projects they deserve. Hell, the Chinese even have a phrase for it "ruling with the mandate of heaven", i.e you can do what you want untill you make the peasent angry enough that they revolt, then run for the hills before you get stuck with a pitchfolk.

    These guys [by this I mean industry controlled by the Chinese government. I have no doubt that your individual Chinese is just as capable at good manufacturing and/or cock-ups as anybody] put anit-freeze in toothpaste! Build a damm? I wouldn't trust them to make my bed!


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    China needs the power

    China is power hungry as it develops. Three Gorges dam is going to provide a heck of a lot of power.

    Yes, some people have had to move home to make room for the dam, and there have been some fatalities. Perhaps we should compare the fatalities to how many people would die if a similar amount of coal was dug out the ground to provide the same power via coal power plants - and perhaps factor in the increased death rate from the pollution made by those coal factories.

  7. John Carter

    Democracy no cover

    Just ask us here in the US - the govt just votes itself a bigger raise, and then spreads that around, then votes for a bigger raise, spreads it around, ad nauseum...

  8. Eric

    Destroy one of the natural wonders of the world...and then fail miserably...

    The Three Gorges was one of the natural wonders of the of the most beautiful and historic places on earth. They destroyed it because they thought the benefits outweighed saving it...and now this. Damn commies always F everything up!

  9. John


    Damn, I gorged myself three times, but an hour later I am still hungry!!

  10. Erik Aamot

    Chinese didn't engineer this

    ... this dam was engineered by GE, Westinghouse and Lippo Group, based in Philipines owned by a Chinese family who had a big generous hand in getting Bill Clinton elected (from the time he was Governor of Arkansas) ...

    ... twas actually Bubba's quid pro quo to get Lippo Group the contract, they weren't qualified to do the job, but had family still in China

    ... US Corps made a bunch of gold, Bill is set for life, who cares now?

    ... no one cared about the forced Chinese labor or worker deaths on the project, the world didn't critize the displacements or destruction of historically important locations

    ...yes, it could the a spark that starts a revolution in Mainland China, sooner the better.

  11. Adrian Esdaile

    Logs in your own eyes

    Here's a couple more world-class f*ck*ps:

    The Salton Sea (USA)

    Colorado River (whats left of it... USA)

    Alaska Oil Pipline (USA)

    Snowy Hydro Scheme (Ausralia)

    in fact the entire Murray/Darling "system" (Australia)

    the propsed Franklin / Lower Gordon dam (Australia - thank B. Hawke that got stopped)

    the Rhine (EU)

    the Thames (UK)

    Us first world so-called "democracies" were doing bigger, better, more informed f*ck*ps long before the Chinese were.

    It's all very well for us to say "don't do that, it's bad", but study a bit of history for once - China doesn't like what it considers foreign Imperialism to have a say in internal affairs, and hell, why shouldn't they? Do you really think G.W. Bush would give a flying fvck what China might think about ANYTHING?

    And as for "...yes, it could the a spark that starts a revolution in Mainland China, sooner the better." - ARE YOU INSANE? You really want to see what the destabilisation of 1.3billion people would be like? The Three Gorges would look like the bloody teddy-bears picnic in comparison.

  12. Will

    Whould have been easier

    to build a more a few more nuke reactors imo. Puts up a compelling argument for them anyhow and thats comming from a Kiwi!

    Anyone have any idea what MWs are comming out of this little dam?

  13. James Anderson


    As recently as 1998 2000 people died when the lower Yangtze burst its banks

    250 million people were displaced and 3 per cent of Chinas food production was lost.

    Not as bad as 1954 with 30,000 dead, 1935 with 142,000 , 1931 with 145,000 or 1911 with 100,000. The 1999 floods with 800 dead are hardly worth mentioning.

    So its very much a qustion of which disater would you choose; a year after year "natural" disaster with the potential to kill 100s of thousands, or, a man made environmnetal disaster which may kill a few dozen people while the dam settles down?

    The gorges are still pretty impressive, although you now have to go above Chong Qing to realise the full power of the river -- a quarter mile wide stretch of water moving at five to six miles an hour is impressive.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Adrian Esdaile

    "the Thames (UK)"

    LOL... what you talkin bout willis?

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Chinese Fire Crackers and Shining Paths. Imagine and it's True

    "...yes, it could the a spark that starts a revolution in Mainland China, sooner the better."

    More probable in America whenever they realise that their Regime is Designed to Create Debt for Control/Subjugation of People ....... and with their Wealth they build Weapons to Attack them...Adding to their Woes. And that is an Inconvenient Truth, is it not?

    But it is not Sustainable as a Viable Model and therefore must be considered Totally Useless and a Wasted Beta.

    Change Games will Play AI Beta Game.

    And of course, Wall Street parcelling up irrecoverable Debt and selling it on as an Appreciative Asset into Foreign Exchanges is beyond the Pale and a Betrayal of Trust.

    A Particulary Nasty and Pernicious Virus the IT Angle.

  16. Robert Long


    The Thames was fucked up before the UK had democracy. Not that it makes any difference, since the NHS IT system is modern and has all the hallmarks of the 3 gorges dam fiasco on a slightly smaller scale.

    "And as for "...yes, it could the a spark that starts a revolution in Mainland China, sooner the better." - ARE YOU INSANE? You really want to see what the destabilisation of 1.3billion people would be like? The Three Gorges would look like the bloody teddy-bears picnic in comparison."

    Yes but it's going to happen and it has to happen, really. There's already 100,000 armed uprisings in China PER YEAR. That's a real dam burst waiting to happen.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chinese revolution...

    "And as for "...yes, it could the a spark that starts a revolution in Mainland China, sooner the better." - ARE YOU INSANE? You really want to see what the destabilisation of 1.3billion people would be like? The Three Gorges would look like the bloody teddy-bears picnic in comparison."

    This is the only remaining chance of the usa to get back their leading position and save their economy without using military force. It is the so called 'bringing the democracy to china' strategy. It could be a revolution or minority uprises or just plain democratic changes (aka. peaceful revolution) but the main idea is to get the chinese state to collapse. On the other side, the current chinese government just decided to skip democracy and switch from communism to capitalism without going throuh democracy first. The usa is making this transition too, but they have the problem of having a democracy and dismantling it is tedious work and needs lots of enemies aka. terrorists.

    ps: Everybody knew that the three gorges dam would be an environmental catastrophe, but the chinese government decided that it's worth to destroy the environment for their own profit. The usa government also choose this path long ago.

  18. Frank Bough

    The Thames?

    What's wrong with the Thames, exactly? I'm from Maidenhead and, apart from the occasional flood (which is perfectly natural for a river) it doesn't really cause a problem. Water's not too dirty, wildlife's plentiful.

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    @China needs the power

    Ooh, how appropriate to compare 50-meter waves and 2 billion rats to some smog.

    Dear Lord, please spare us the Evils of Pollution ! We will accept anything if we can avoid Pollution !!

    Well I would much rather deal with a bit of smog than have to fight more rats than there are people in China. I'd like to see you find a way to deal with 2 billion rats.

    2 billions rats. For Heaven's sake ! I can't even imagine what damage that amount of hungry critters can do.

  20. Karl Lattimer

    Damn yankees


    Anyone who equates communism with something like this is a moron, anyone who believes blaming a political ideology as the culprit for problems should look closer to home before blaming the ideologically sound notion of communism.

    Neo-conservatism mantra goes, the world would benefit from US domination, that the unbridled use of war in clearing a path for US domination is a positive thing, that military superiority is the most important aim of the government, that the government can pour tax payers money into the corporations teach member is individually affiliated with is OK.

    Sounds pretty much like Stalinism to me... In fact, all but the corporate love in IS stalinism, but lets face it, if the USSR was Capitalist back then, stalin would be a neocon.

    Wake the fuck up, stop blaming an ideology which is entrenched in the notion of equality for these issues, don't blame the ideology for the oppression of megalomaniac nutters in charge of the state. I'm directing this at all Americans.

    Maybe if US schools actually educated about communism rather than allowing McCarthyist propaganda from 50 years ago to still run rife in a country which is essentially currently behaving the same way Stalin did we wouldn't have so many morons in the world.

    Oh sweet afghan apples...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with the Thames, exactly?

    Well, there's the smell and then there's all the tw@s who live alongside it.

    As for the dam power is expected to eventually reach 22,500 MW all carbon free...

    The yangtze regularly used to flood below the dam and many hundreds of people died each year in those areas.

    I've been through it, it's gobsmackingly big, and worth doing purely on that basis.

    >I'd like to see you find a way to deal with 2 billion rats.

    The area these things are in is huge, it's not 2 billion rats in a wheely bin.

  22. David S

    No. 54

    Crispy Rat in Yellow Bean Sauce

  23. Lickass McClippers

    Comment of the week for me...

    "The area these things are in is huge, it's not 2 billion rats in a wheely bin." - By JonB

    Splendid comment Sir... :]

  24. amanfromAlphaCentauri

    Me too...

    "2 billion rats in a wheely bin."

    That tickled me fancy, great comment!

  25. Pablo Pablo

    Next line

    "Where you wheely bin?"

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Also, I don't think the rats were spontaneously created by the dam - I think they just moved. So the problem should sort itself pretty quickly.

  27. Amanda Appleton

    2 billion rats

    I'd've thought it would be easier to deal with 2 billion rats in a wheely bin than spread over a wide area - stick the lid down, and wheel it to your nearest place offering No. 54 ;-)

  28. Jon

    @ 2 Billion rats in a wheely bin

    You would get a sticker on the side of that bin around here saying they cannot accept this amount of rubbish.

    Then you would leave it there for the next 2 weeks hoping they would pick it up next time, but at the rat these little furry friends reproduce it could be 9 billion.

  29. Dafydd Lawrence


    Maybe this will force China's hand to join the Mekong River Commission before their actions hurt the whole of Southeast Asia mainland.

  30. Norman Wanzer

    Loss of history

    I have seen stories about the loss of Chinese historical sites now under water because of the dam. I truly believe that when you loose your history you start to loose your identity. A revolution will come in China but it is unlikely to occur until the economy of that country starts to slow down. Right now more people are happy with the way things are than dissatisfied.

    @Damn yankees

    As a US American I can agree with most of what you said. Since G.W. got into office we have been living in an idealist state. The scary thing is how many people agree with and support it. In the end it has only benefited the people in government who own stock in the contracted companies sent to Iraq to ‘help’ with the recovery. Personally I'm thinking of moving to Canada.

    As for teaching communism in US, if the students I have talked to recently are the norm then most do not even know what communism is. They will however, tell you that the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim without even realizing they are turning into the very thing they believe they are fighting against. It is sad really.


    Ask the Australians about how much damage a few billion rodents can do. They get a flood of mice on a regular schedule. That's MICE not RATS.

    Here is video about just one farm that went through it.

  31. J-P Stacey

    The wisdom of crowds

    "I'd like to see you find a way to deal with 2 billion rats."

    In totalitarian China, 2 billion rats deal with *you*.

  32. Tim Bergel

    The Thames continued


    If you think the Thames smells bad you should have seen it in the 1960s - *nothing* could live in it.

    Nowadays we get salmon. The Thames is a triumph of ecological restoration, not any sort of disaster - though of course it could still be improved.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ China needs the power & JohnB

    A dam is not carbon neutral, the power that you get from a hydro dam has a massive carbon cost. Just because you aren't burning coal doesn't mean that you are making clean power. A generic estimate is 1ton of CO2 per ton of concrete created. Not environmentally friendly.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe this will force China's hand to join the Mekong River Commission before their actions hurt the whole of Southeast Asia mainland.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moving rats

    " Also, I don't think the rats were spontaneously created by the dam - I think they just moved. So the problem should sort itself pretty quickly. "

    Your false assumption is that "just" moving a huge number of animals from one place to another makes no difference.

    ********ring********* *********ring********** Hello? What? Yes, OK, I'll tell him.

    Australia called. They want you to come and "just move" a bunch of rabbits and toads, since you seem to think its so trivial.

  36. kain preacher

    The Salton Sea (USA)

    please note the history behind the salton sea. It was created when a massive flood , flood a salt mine. Now the salt ratio has increased. hs nothing to do with man kind, it has to do with the lack of rain in a desert. The death of the salton sea has nothing to d with mans interaction.

  37. Sarev

    @ China needs the power

    Don't get diverted too much thinking about carbon neutrality when you're talking about a dam; converting a fast-moving river into a huge body of standing water tends to produce vast quantities of methane from rotting vegetation, which is approx twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 (mass for mass, over a hundred years or so).

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Jack Prichard

    >I wouldn't trust them to make my bed!<

    They probably did make your bed. Unless you are from Sweden ;-)

    @Norman Wanzer

    You probably can't afford to move here now, you are welcome, just don't bring US dollars. ;-)


  39. CBarn

    @ The Salton Sea (USA)

    The death of the Salton Sea is mostly a natural process, but the actual presence of the Salton Sea in what had previously been the Salton Sink WAS a man-made environmental disaster in the early 1900's.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's MICE not RATS.

    Mice are just baby rats, everybody knows this.

  41. foxyshadis


    Tim, the point was that the Thames was a man-made disaster for hundreds of years, even if it eventually became a multi-billion pound successful restoration.

    kain, the salton sea was created by a man-made canal off the colorado river without adequate flood protection, causing the whole river to divert into it and creating a giant ecological disaster for wildlife in the area for a decade. It almost permanently changed the course of the river. On balance, it's been a great refuge for birds and fish, although increasing salinity and mexican pollution are putting an end to that.

  42. Janus

    "The Ukranians starved themselves"?

    I had to smile (grimly) at the comment which includes the phrase "the ideologically sound notion of communism". Karl Popper's "The Poverty of Historicism", anyone?

    There's a potted guide here :

    Covered in chapter 24: "It is very hard to learn from big mistakes," and, "Centralised Power but no Centralised Knowledge."

    Sound familiar?

  43. Luther Blissett

    A slow reader writes

    "Geological instability isn't the only unforeseen negative effect..." If the effects were not foreseen, then unless recklessness can be demonstrated, surely - as the I Ching says - no blame attaches.

    However, it also points out (Hexagram 35 - Progress (sic)):

    "Progress like a hamster.

    Perseverance brings danger.

    In times of progress it is easy for strong men in the wrong places to amass great possessions. But such conduct shuns the light. And since times of progress are also times in which dubious procedures are inevitably brought to the light, perseverance in such action always leads to danger."

    Something in there for everybody methinks.

  44. Danny Roberts

    Centralised Power but no Centralised Knowledge.

    ****** Centralised Power but no Centralised Knowledge.******

    Sounds like the problem with just about any UK Gov IT project!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ahh but my cost

    but do any of you know who is financing this project ? believe it or not,a lot of western financial institutions are..and my retirement funds are there..[not my choice] They could have had three dams on rivers feeding this river and controlled the flooding just as well and almost as much electricity... but they wanted something super big..with the bigger budget..

    as for a major uprising their , who cares , walmart will get cheap crap else where

  46. Erik Aamot


    well, I suppose you've been informed about the Salton Sea by now

    Alaskan Pipeline? .. well, the Caribou like it's warmth so much they have overbreed and the wolf populations have risen a bit, quite a disaster, yes

    Really ? , you could at least mention clear cutting virgin Redwood forests, or the shape Mono lake got into, but for the most part US cleans up it's messes and currently has quite strict (almost ridiculous) environmental protections

    mean while China is building almost weekly, a coal plant big enough to light San Diego, CA .. not caoncerned with low-sulfer coal nor the 1000s of mine workers that die yearly

    so YOU might compare 3 mile Island with Cernobyl, or Salton Sea with Aral Sea

    But I'll tell you, US has had Carbon reduction standards for Autos since 1976 ( they are called fuel ecomony standards ) and the air is SWEET in So.Cal today compared to '50s to 70's, or Bejing for that matter

    US doesn't even make any of the top 10 manmade enviromental disasters in the world, nor any of the top 10 worse polluted areas

    I doubt millions or billions would die in a Chinese revolution, less than 1 in 1000 Chines homes have running water or electricity, they would keep doing what they are doing, Chinese military will not wholesale slauter it's own these days.

  47. Steve Roper

    @Adrian Esdaile

    You're spot on about the condition of the Murray-Darling river system in Australia - it's just about dead. In South Australia, where I live, we get most of our water from the Murray piped to our reservoirs. Low river levels and topsoil erosion from land clearing over the past few years have caused major problems for us. The Murray Mouth (where the river enters the sea) has silted up preventing fresh water from entering the estuary region known as the Coorong, causing devastation to the wildlife there and rendering the soil too salty for crops.

    We are also under heavy water restrictions: it's now illegal to wash your car at home (you have to use an approved car wash location which recycles water; = $), or to water your garden during daylight hours. We also need a government permit (= $$$!) to fill or top up swimming pools too. More restrictions are slated for next year, possibly limiting use of showers or baths, and mandating the use of water-recycling systems in homes.

    Yes, we're in real trouble here. And our idiot PM pays a massive baby bonus for mothers to have kids, AND wants to bring in tens of thousands of immigrants every year, even though there's not enough bloody water for the people already here!

  48. laird cummings

    @Anton Ivanov

    You're right - I'd never even considered that things could be so bad. What a sad, frightening picture you paint.

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