Li Yongan, general manager of the Three Gorges Corporation, claims that the Three Gorges Dam is “the grandest project the Chinese people have undertaken in thousands of years.” At its peak, the construction team consisted of some 26,000 Chinese and foreign employees. The project is a symbol of China’s economic and technological progress, and generates renewable energy with a capacity of 22.5 gigawatts. The project, proposed by President Sun Yat in 1918, was in controversy during decades due to its social and environmental impact.
The dam has brought a positive impact to the area and the whole country. The hydropower station generates 100 billion kilowatt hours, annually powering almost one third of China’s provinces. This reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide by 100 million tons, and substitutes the burning of more than 30 million tons of coal every year. At the same time, it has greatly improved navigation on the Yangtze River. The supporters also claim that the project has made devastating floods in the Yangtze Valley a thing of the past, and that it supplies water in the south during dry season, improving the quality of life of the resettled population. According to former President Jiang Zemin, the dam “embodies the great industrious spirit of the Chinese nation.”
However, on the other hand, the 600 km long reservoir displaced 1.3 million people when it began to store water in the 129 cities and towns, which are now under water. The environmental impact is also very high. Construction pollutants, pollutants from industry and agriculture, wildlife damage, alteration of the river’s chemical balance are all creating unusual weather conditions in the area. The Three Gorges Project has also created serious seismic and safety risks, and due to that, an additional 530,000 people had to be relocated by 2020.