Technology Hydroelectricity China's Three Gorges Term Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Sources: 4
  • Subject: Energy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #18217626

Excerpt from Term Paper :

By 2030, about 60% of China's longest river's electricity-producing potential will be harnessed. It is believed that by 2030, that more than 30% of the Yangtze's water resources would be used for agriculture or industry. That's an increase from 17.8% today, in an area likely to see decreasing rainfall in the coming years do to the effects of climate change on precipitation patterns (McDermott, 2005)

All of this rightly raises red flags among environmentalists, especially considering the problems with Three Gorges. A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that water quality persists to decline in reservoir areas of Three Gorges, which is causing the fish stocks to decline. Though it's certainly true that hydropower is a better option than profligate burning of coal for China, surely there are more eco-friendly ways to tap into China's world-leading hydropower resources than continued building of large-scale dams (McDermott, 2005)

Arguments assembled by the Japanese to support their final decision do provide some answers to the project's critics. After concentrated reviews by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Japan has claimed that this project has presented many benefits. Japan thinks that this project can achieve its objectives in this area, despite many thoughts that it could actually amplify the risk of floods, either through changes in silt flow or a dam collapse. This issue in particular has drawn a lot of popular sympathy for this project throughout Japan. Another benefit is that of emissions reduction. The plant's output will be equivalent to several large coal-fired plants (Three Gorges Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, China, 2010).

Japan thinks that current plans are sufficient, although the do agree that the situation would need to be kept under review. China originally maintained that possible problems had been identified and dealt with. But there were further calls on Western governments and companies to avoid supporting the project until resettlement and human rights problems had been resolved. There were claims that the dam does not address the real source of flooding, the deforestation in the Yangtze watershed and the loss of lakes that alleviated floods because of siltation, reclamation and uncontrolled development. Corruption scandals have also surrounded this project. Contractors supposedly won bids due to bribery and then skimmed construction funds by being frugal on equipment and materials. After a number of accidents, much of the project's infrastructure ripped out in 1999 (Three Gorges Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant, China, 2010).

The World Bank, having been burnt by brutal evaluations of other hydro projects that is had sponsored, chose not to fund this project. The U.S. Export-Import Bank also caved to the pressure. The bank had hoped to obtain additional environmental information from the Chinese that would permit them to make a positive decision. Its stance did not prevent U.S. groups from bidding for contracts, or from the U.S. commercial banks from financing their operations (Bristow, 2007)

According to China's leaders, the Three Gorges dam will provide groundwork for the nation's future economic affluence. This power will also help China to meet the rapidly growing energy demand. The transmission processions that are being put into place are to convey electricity from the dam to the rest of the country. This will help to generate a national grid, with the Three Gorges at the center. Transportation of people and goods will also be improved. The reservoir will allow 10,000-ton freighters to enter the nation's interior, which currently limits access to boats less than 1,500 tons. Vessels will be able to navigate from Shanghai up to Chongqing, around 2000km from the sea. It has the potential to become an even more important transport artery if adequate facilities are put in place to incorporate cargo transport on the river with major rail and road junctions. The government along with many companies that have been involved in the development of the Three Gorges dam have been eager to endorse the dam by making it into a tourist attraction. Tour boats are now offering trips on the reservoirs in order to allow tourists to view what are being advertised as haughty gorges projecting passive lakes. The dam is also proposed to provide major flood control benefits. In the past, the population in the middle and lower areas of the Yangtze River experienced tremendous losses from flooding both in human life and property. The enormous flooding of the Yangtze River in 1931 resulted in more than 3 million deaths from flooding and starvation (Cleveland, 2008).

The government also notes that the dam's power generation potential of 84.7BkWh/yr is the energy equivalent of burning 50 million tons of coal or 25 million tons of crude oil. "The switch to cleaner hydroelectric power would have the effect of cutting 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, up to two million tons of sulfur dioxide, ten thousand tons of carbon monoxide, 370,000 tons of nitrogen oxide,

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