Accessibility links

Gates of China's 3 Gorges Dam Shut with Much Fanfare - 2003-06-01

With much fanfare from the Chinese government, the gates of the Three Gorges Dam have shut in central China to create a massive reservoir. However, there are widespread concerns about the environmental and social fallout from the world's biggest hydroelectric project.

The Three Gorges Dam blocked China's famous Yangtze River early Sunday, starting a two-week process that will create a reservoir covering 600 square kilometers. State television broadcast live as engineers used computers to close the sluice gates on the dam.

China's leaders say the $25 billion dam will power the mainland's economy with cheap and clean energy. It also should help control flooding on the Yangtze, which killed more than 300,000 people in the last century.

Critics, however, charge that the dam will lead to environmental disaster. They argue that garbage and industrial waste from flooded communities will seriously pollute the Yangtze.

Environmental activist Dai Qing says that decades of accumulated trash from villages, hospitals and cemeteries, including toxic waste from factories, are still there. Millions of dead rats, recently poisoned by the government, litter the area. She says the issue of pollution left in the drinking water has not been resolved.

Critics also worry about the 750,000 people who have been relocated from the land that will be covered by the reservoir.

The government has promised that these people, many of them poor farmers and factory workers, will be adequately compensated for losing their homes. However, rampant unemployment across China has made it difficult for many of the evacuees to settle into their new lives.