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Inside The Three Gorges Dam A Man Made Disaster

By: Knowledge FeedPublished: 5 months ago

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When it officially became fully functional on July 4, 2012, China hailed the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest power station with 22,500 megawatts of installed capacity as a resounding success. They pointed to it's modern, highly efficient turbines, it's ability to increase shipping capacity along the Yangtze River and the fact that it could help to prevent downstream flooding by freeing up flood storage space. Not only all of this, but it was a move towards limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Sounds great, but, there are two sides to every story and the negative consequences of this monumental project, which cost the country the equivalent of around 25 billion U.S. dollars have been described by many as catastrophic both in its human and environmental impacts. Over one million people were displaced and the dam flooded historically significant archeological and cultural sites. Entire ecosystems were permanently altered with rare plant and animal life being pushed to the brink of extinction. Experts warned that the increased pressure such a massive structure would create on the surrounding land would trigger massive landslides and an increased risk of earthquakes, and their eerie predictions seem to be coming true. We’ll break down the story behind what has become without a doubt one of the most controversial pieces of infrastructure ever built by humankind, The Three Gorges Dam.

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The dam has plenty of positive impacts, it wasn’t built just to cause landslides and displace millions. At full power the Three Gorges is capable of reducing coal consumption by over 30 million tonnes a year, thereby avoiding some 100 million tonnes of gas emissions and ten thousand tonnes of carbon monoxide. The presence of ship locks and even ship elevators believe it or not, allows giant vessels to traverse the Yangtze, boosting the country’s economy as a result. While the Chinese government hoped that the dam would provide power to 10% of people in China electricity demand in the country became much higher than expected and less than 2 percent of the population receive power through the dam today. Another positive impact of the dam, if you were to ask government officials would be it's ability to prevent a very real and very serious threat to the millions surrounding and directly affected by the Yangtze,


The Dam’s top priority, it seemed was in preventing the catastrophic floods that occur along the Yangtze, land that is populated by millions of people. In August of 1931 following a year of above average rainfall the Yangtze flooded. 500 square miles surrounding the river were submerged. Entire rice crops were destroyed. Without this essential food thousands in major cities like Nanjing starved following the catastrophe. All told over three and a half million lives were claimed in the months following the floods. More recently in 1998, a series of floods that lasted from June to September left 3,700 people dead, 15 million homeless and caused nearly 25 billion dollars in economic losses. 13 million homes were damaged or broken beyond repair. Now, government officials tout the dams apparent ability to prevent such catastrophes. The general public and especially those that live in areas near the Yangtze aren’t so sure. Flooding last year was the worst since 1998, leaving hundreds dead. Critics pointed to the dam and its failure to prevent the disaster. The 2016 floods were bad and only time will tell if the Three Gorges is capable of preventing an event as devastating as 1998, or scarier still something more along the lines of what transpired in 1931. This dam is so freaking big, some experts out there think it's sheer mass and the changes in water level it creates could actually cause


The paths of major fault lines lie directly underneath the Three Gorges. Experts believed that the dam, as a result could cause a significant increase in seismic activity. As you know by now the dam was built despite these and many other concerns, some of which we’ve gone over. A study done by the China Earthquake Administration, a government entity showed that the experts were right. They registered 3,429 earthquakes around the reservoir between mid 2003 and the end of 2009, 30 times the frequency recorded during pre-dam periods. People fear a large earthquake and it's potential consequences as it relates to the dam. If the dam itself were to be damaged during a huge earthquake, for instance, the results would surely be devastating for the millions living in close proximity.

Thanks everyone for joining us on our Knowledge Feedy look at the Three Gorges Dam. We hope that we’ve tipped the richter scales within you a bit and we can’t wait for you to join us on our next video. Good night and good luck.


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