China has established what may be one of the most significant alterations to the nature ever. The Three Gorges Dam (TGD), the largest in history, was completed in China, and it brings with it many social as well as environmental concerns. According to Gleick et al. (2009), TGD may seem to bring benefits to the Chinese people, but the important thing is to give attention and control measures to the adverse impacts that may result from the project.
Problems with wildlife
A research done by Li (1989) indicates that the project would have extreme adverse impacts on the wildlife within the Yangtze region. This particular region is known for its rich and stable biodiversity. It is home to thousands of species of plants. Most of the freshwater animals like fish are greatly affected by dams, especially due to unprecedented changes in the water temperatures. In the case of the dam, many of the fish are hurt with the turbine blades that are used to drive the hydroelectric plants. According to Li (1989), this is particularly dangerous to the ecosystem in the region since the Yangtze River basin is holds different fish species. Future projects like this should consider working in regions that will have less impact on the wildlife or establish proper mechanisms and systems that can co-exist with the natural life.
Problems with earthquakes and landslides
Despite the fact that the Three Gorges Dam was constructed with tolerance to high seismic impact of earthquake magnitude of 6 to 7, the dam area is naturally prone to geological disasters. An occurrence of devastating earthquake could lead to disastrous landslides as well as damages to the Three Gorges Dam. According to report by New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television (2015) since the 2003 when the dam started to be functional, the reservoir-induced seismic activities have been very obvious, and tightly connected to the changes of water levels. In the first quarter of year 2010, there were a total of over 97 significant landslides within the area that can directly be associated with the TGD. As a way to control this, the Chinese government had constructed a dam with the most advanced material and technology, but this has not been that successful. Future construction projects should take into account such recommendations and work in regions with less risk or work with better material and equipment. This can also improved by incorporating more experts in the planning and construction.
Problem with environmental pollution and waste management
Peryman (2013) reports for International Probe and says that an investigation carried out on wastewater treatment in the TGD reservoir basin found that the increasing wastewater effluents as well as a fall in the flow rate of the Yangtze, resulting from the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, are quickly creating a pollution crisis within the 600-kilometre reservoir. A report from Reuters (2015) indicates that the thousands of tons of garbage washed down by torrential rain are threats to jam the locks of the massive Dam. The huge amount of waste in the dam area could easily jam the meter gate of the Three Gorges Dam, creating a pool of waste material and affecting the surrounding area. In the recent years, residents of a Chongqing, an industrial town near the dam, have been dumping their garbage along the Yangtze’s riverbanks. The Chinese government constructed a 600-km-long reservoir, which as a result, backed up and slowed down the Yangtze’s flow. This in return has created a concentration of pollutants, garbage and sewage within the reservoir area. The situation has forced Chongqing, which sits at the head of the reservoir, to confront how it dealt with waste.
Erosion and sedimentation
Sediments together with silt contain valuable nutrients that are very essential to agricultural production. The blocking of these sediments by the dam would mean that these nutrients are not reaching fertile farmland downstream. Consequently, this could reduce the fertility of the land. According to a study by Yang et al. (2006) the dam had retained about 151 million tonnes of sediment every year since 2003 when the dam became functional. Another research by Xu & Milliman (2009) indicates that during the four years period after the TGD impoundment, approximately 60% of sediment that was entering the dam reservoir was trapped. Despite the fact that periodic sediment deposition goes downstream the TGD, during most of the times, substantial erosion has occurred, supplying approximately 70 million tons per year of channel-derived sediment to the lower reaches of the river.
Displacement of people
One of the obvious challenges that would arise from the construction of the Three Gorges Dam was the displacement of the people living within the region. According to research by Jackson & Sleigh (2000), the dam’s 660-kilometer-long reservoir has flooded about 632 square kilometres of land—including well over a 100 towns and villages. This has resulted to displacement of approximately 1.3 million people. The research indicates that there has been a rising rate of unemployment and deteriorating public health due to this displacement. The project on its part is boosting economic expectations while at the same time adversely affecting a large part of the population, and this could is a risk to widespread social unrest as well as eventual changes in the political institutions. In order to tackle this, the Chinese government carried out a resettlement program and compensation program that would see the affected people move to other regions. Proper program should be used in future projects that would incorporate consultation with the local community to ensure that the transition takes place effectively without causing harm to the people.
Problem with culture and degradation of archaeological and historical sites
Construction of the dam has led to rising of the water levels of the Yangtze River and specific tributaries like Shen Nong Stream rising by more than 150 metres. This has consequently destroyed numerous archaeological sites. According to Childs-Johnson & Sullivan (1996), some cultural and historical relics have been moved to higher ground as they are discovered, but the flooding due to the reservoir has inevitably covered other undiscovered relics. The majority of the sites could not be moved due to their location, design or size. These are parts of Chinese heritage that many never been disclosed ever again. Collaboration with stakeholders concerned with the preservation of culture and heritage would have been vital before the starting of the project. The movement of the site should have been carried out even before the construction started other than waiting for the flooding in order to take preservation measures.
The Three Gorges Dam has had a significant impact on the Chinese people, and this includes both negative and positive. Despite the economic benefits, which include flood control as well as hydroelectric power, this project has extensively affected socio0economic lives of the people and the environment. A high number of people have been displaced, cities and towns flooded, archaeological sites submerged, and other effects on the environment is equally frightening. The Chinese government needs to review and set up strategies that will reduce the already adverse impacts of this project to ensure the safety of its people as well as the environment.