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Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China

"A river is like a human body, you cannot cut it". But supporters of the largest dam of the world mantain China has no choice


Dams have been a politically contentious issue in China since the 1950s, during which Mao’s effort to rapidly industrialize China resulted in the emergence of thousands of poorly constructed dams across the country, all of which had collapsed by 1980 [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, China
State or province:Hubei
Location of conflict:Yichang
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power station with 34 generators: 32 main generators, each with a capacity of 700 MW, and two plant power generators, each with capacity of 50 MW, making a total capacity of 22,500 MW

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project23,000,000,000 (official estimate)
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:1.2 million displaced
Company names or state enterprises: China Yangtze Power from China
Power Grid Development Company from China - The company is responsible for the transmission work
Siemens from Germany - supply electrical system equipment through its subsidary Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation
Alstom from France
China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG ) from China - Responsible for the construction of the Three Gorges Dam
Relevant government actors:The National People's Congress
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Development Bank (CDB) from China
China Construction Bank (CCB) from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers; Weng Lida, the secretary general of the Yangtze River Forum; Dai Qing, prominent Chinese journalist; Zhou Peiyuan and Lin Hua, prominent Chinese scientists
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Soil contamination, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In an unexpected statement, China’s government has just acknowledged the serious problems of the Three Gorges Dam. “The project is now greatly benefiting the society in the aspects of flood prevention, power generation, river transportation and water resource utilization,” the government maintained, but it has also “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of the relocated communities" [10].
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Shapiro, J. (2012). China’s environmental challenges. Cambridge, U.K., Cambridgeshire: Polity Press.

[2] Jackson, S. & Sleigh, A. (2000). Resettlement for China’s Three Gorges Dam: socio-economic impact and institutional tensions.

Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 33(2), 223-241.

[3] Jing, J. (1997). Rural resettlement: Past lessons for the three Gorges Project. The China Journal, (38), 65.

[4] Lin, T.C. (2007). Environmental NGOs and the Anti-dam movements in China: A social movement with Chinese characteristics. Issues & Studies, 43(4), 149-184.

[5] Three Gorges Dam
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[6] Floods test Three Gorges Dam
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[7] China's Enormous Three Gorges Dam Could End Up Being A Huge Mistake
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[8] Three Gorges Dam
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[9]Chinese Government Acknowledges Problems of Three Gorges Dam
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[10] Articles Landslide destroys dam in Three Gorges region
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[11] Probe International - Who is behind China’s Three Gorges Dam
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Is the Three Gorges Dam a Ticking Time Bomb?
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National Geographic
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1795
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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