|Three Gorges Dam|
People have been building dams since the time of ancient Mesopotamia as a way to control water along rivers and waterways. Dams help stop floods along rivers, collect water for drinking and agriculture, and generate electricity for cities and factories. As technology has improved, dams have gotten larger, allowing them to collect more water and generate more electricity. But is a bigger dam always better?
The Three Gorges Dam in China is the world’s largest dam. It is located along the Yangtze River, which flows from the mountains of Tibet out to the sea. The massive dam has broken several world records, such as overall size and largest volume of materials used to build a dam.
China has benefited from the dam. During construction the dam provided jobs to many people; now that it’s complete, the dam provides electricity to people throughout the region. In addition, the dam has helped to control flooding on the Yangtze River, which previously caused numerous deaths each year.
However, the dam has also taken a huge social and cultural toll on the region. It is estimated that 1.3 million people were forced to move from their homes during construction of the dam. In addition, officials expect that 4 million more people might have to be moved in the next 15 years because of environmental problems and pollution caused by the dam. When the reservoir of the dam filled up with water ancient buildings and temples were destroyed and people lost the farms and communities they had lived in their entire lives. The Chinese government has promised to help people start new lives and farms, but many people are still waiting for assistance.
The environmental toll has also been large. The levels of pollution around the dam are very high. As farmers move to higher ground and try to build new farms on the hillsides, it is causing erosion and landslides. Geologists believe that there might be even more earthquakes, already a risk in this region, because there is so much pressure from the water in the dam’s growing reservoir.
There has never been a dam as large as the Three Gorges Dam, and no one really knows what the long-term impacts will be. But in the short-term, the dam has ruined communities for many Chinese citizens and has caused environmental problems in the region. Many experts are worried that these problems will only get worse. They argue that other countries should learn from the example of the Three Gorges Dam and stop building such large dam projects.
Toll: the extent of loss, damage, suffering, etc., resulting from some action or calamity; for example, the toll was 300 persons dead or missing.
Erosion: the process by which the surface of the earth is worn away by the action of water, glaciers, winds, waves, etc.
Reservoir: the area behind the wall of a dam where water is collected and stored
Geologist: a person who studies the origin, history, and structure of the earth
1. What is the Three Gorges Dam and where is it located?
2. What have been the impacts of the Three Gorges Dam, both good and bad?
3. What are some reasons why a country might build a dam? How is a dam used to provide water to citizens?
4. Make a list of other large dams around the world, and compare them to the Three Gorges Dam, in terms of size, volume, area of reservoir, etc.
5. Research more about dams and their environmental impact. Any man-made object like a dam is inevitably going to create changes in the ecosystem around it. Do you believe that the benefits of dams outweigh the costs?