Monday, November 19, 2007

What makes a catastrophe at the world’s largest dam?

...the Communist Party is hoping the [Three Gorges Dam] does not become China’s biggest folly. In recent weeks, Chinese officials have admitted that the dam was spawning environmental problems like water pollution and landslides that could become severe. Equally startling, officials want to begin a new relocation program that would be bigger than the first.

The [dam] lies at the uncomfortable center of China’s energy conundrum: The nation’s roaring economy is addicted to dirty, coal-fired power plants that pollute the air and belch greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Dams are much cleaner producers of electricity, but they have displaced millions of people in China and carved a stark environmental legacy on the landscape.

“It’s really kind of a no-win situation,” said Jonathan Sinton, China program manager at the International Energy Agency. “There are no ideal choices.”
--from Chinese Dam Projects Criticized for Their Human Costs by Jim Yardley, with research contributed by Zhang Jing.

By 2020, it seems, China wants to nearly triple its hydropower capacity, to 300 gigawatts. 100 hydropower stations could be built on the upper Yangtze basin within two decades.The article nearly ends with:
...The quality of land is getting worse and worse the higher they go. And there are now more people than the land can sustain....

...Winter is approaching, and [Ms. Lu] is trying to block out cold air — and rats — by pinning down the tent flaps with rocks...

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