Three Gorges Dam and the environment

An article from the Washington Post raises a new thread from China's giant Three Gorges Dam project: environmental damage from pollution.

Since the Three Gorges Dam will be the largest single hydroelectric facility in the world, generating 18.2 Million Kilowatts of power when it is fully online, you would think that environmentalists would be happy about it.

But, if you have followed the dam through its design and construction (and the forcible removal of over 1.3 million people from its path), you know that they haven't been happy in the least about it, and neither have historians who morn the loss of historic sites and treasures.

This article looks at another danger: industrial pollution. Along the three rivers that will feed the Three Gorges dam, there are a number of chemical, paper, and other factories that generate tons of unfiltered waste and eject it directly into the rivers. Although it isn't a great situation today, the fast- moving pace of the rivers and their length provides a certain amount of filtering over time. With the construction of the dam, however, that pace will slow and much of the solid and noxious waste will coalesce in the water that sits behind the dam, say environmentalists.

Since they cannot stop the dam, their hopes now are to get controls put on the factories in order to clean them up, but they are meeting heavy resistance from the government. Recent moves have included shuttering of environmental groups on June 6th for not meeting strict guidelines for non-profits, and threats of SARS quarantine for individual workers.