Lessons Learned from the Three Gorges Dam
Activity 3

Support Letter
Chinese Government Officials

To: World Commission on Dams

From: _____________, Minister of Trade and Industry
_____________, Minister of Energy

We thank the World Commission on Dams for choosing the Three Gorges Dam as one of their case studies. We are convinced that this dam is and has been in the best interest of all the Chinese people and hope you will agree with our findings based upon the following information:

  1. The Canadian engineering company, Acres International, an independent study group completed a comprehensive dam feasibility study for the Chinese government. After careful consideration, this committee determined that the Three Gorges Dam would be the best option for China's growing energy needs. This team of consultants has already completed much of the work which your commission is assigned to do, and we would urge you to look at their reasons for recommending the building of the Three Gorges Dam.

  2. The hydroelectric power which is generated from this dam is a source of renewable energy which will allow us to stay competitive for years to come. Coal provides 66% of China's energy, burning 1.1-1.2 billion tons of coal per annum and emitting vast volumes of carbon dioxide. Continued industrial growth and growing energy demands will increase this figure. The future Sanxia hydropower station will be largest in the world and reduce China's dependence on coal. Twenty-six turbines, each possibly 400 tons each, will generate eighteen. This will be equivalent to the output of 178 nuclear power plants, or the burning of 40-50 million tons of coal per year or 25 million tons of crude oil per year. This will drastically reduce carbon dioxide and sulfur emissions and so limiting future increases in greenhouse effect and acid rain. In contrast, virtually pollution-free hydroelectric power seems an attractive proposition. Clearly the project would require vast amount of labor to build and maintain. We hope much of the labor would come from our local population. Hydroelectric power will allow for industrial growth and supply power to Eastern and Central China and Eastern Sichaun. Concomitant with the dam, construction of new towns and infrastructure are generating employment. At present, 60,000 workers are employed at the dam site. Construction of the dam in Central China is of strategic importance. Destruction would be disastrous both militarily and for the nation.

  3. Seasonal flooding is a serious problem along lower Yangtze, occurring approximately every 5 years. During the past 2000 years since the Han Dynasty, 214 flood disasters recorded along Yangtze, 11 of them in the last 70 years. The 1870 flood, considered the largest for 4000 years, drowned 240,000 people and 1 million hectares of land. During the 1931 140,000 people were killed, during the 1954 flood, 30,000 were killed and 1 million homeless. In 1996, 2,700 were killed. Present flood defenses along the Yangtze include dykes up to 16 m high and flood basins, which act as a safety valve. However, these dykes are in constant need of maintenance. At the height of the 1991 flood 1 million people were involved in reinforcing the dykes to prevent breaches.

  4. Present navigation is hindered by dangerous shoals of sediment and rapids. The reservoir will submerge shoals, deepen the channel, have more gradual banks and slower flow. At the dam, two five-stage locks will raise deep-draft ships (up to 10 000 tons), while a ship lift will service smaller vessels (up to 3 000 tons). This will improve passage and increase shipping volumes between Yichang and the major industrial city of Chongquing (population 15 million). Chongquing will become accessible to ocean-going vessels of up to of 10 000 tons (ten times the normal capacity).

  5. Many people have voiced their concern over the people living in the area where the dam is being built. We regret that these people will lose much of their farm land and that many antiquities will be lost. While it would be best if the dam did not have such an impact on people, as you know, we must choose the area which best constitutes the best site for maximum hydroelectric power. Our job, as government officials is to seek the best options for the entire country. However, we have made plans to compensate the people for their losses. We have promised these people more training and a better living situation.

  6. It is true that there are some environmental issues when the dam is completely built. We do our best to preserve as much of the environment as possible. Just as when the Aswan Dam was built, there were some environmental implications as well. However, when the pros and cons are weighed equally, we are convinced that the people of Egypt are much better off than if the dam had not been built. In a similar fashion, we feel that the Three Gorges Dam has some of the same trade-offs, but I the long run, China as a country and the Chinese people will have a much better quality of life

  7. Project loans will be fully prepaid by the power generated. In 2003, 11 years of the formal launching of the Three Gorges Project, the first generations are scheduled for use. Upon completion in the year 2009, the project will be able to generate a total of 293 billion kwh during the period of construction. Therefore, the project can repay all loans and interests two to three years after going into full operation.
As you can see, we have carefully considered the many aspects of building the Three Gorges Dam and are convinced that we had no viable alternative but to build it. China must continue to progress toward full development in this new millennium. Thank you for your time.