Dammed if you do and damned if you don’t
The Three Gorges Dam controversy
Saturday 12 July, 3.15pm until 4.15pm, Norton Rose LLP

The controversial Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydro-electric project and will provide the equivalent of 18 nuclear power stations; power for the booming cities of central China.  China is constantly being criticised for the vast and increasing number of polluting coal fired power stations. The Dam will produce enough power to replace about one eighth of China’s coal fired power stations. The Dam will also control the floods further down the Yangtze that kill thousands every few years and enable more ships to navigate the Three Gorges with greater ease. However, the critical campaigners say this great feat of engineering comes at too high a cost.  The potential to transform the lives of millions through cleaner energy production and fewer floods is now perceived by many around the world as to be less important than the displacement of over a million people, the destruction of 1,200 towns and villages which will disappear under its rising waters, the loss of numerous valuable archaeological and cultural sites and its adverse effect on animal life.  Why is it that the Three Gorges Dam has been so heavily criticised when the Hoover Dam was celebrated across the world in the 1930s?  What does this tell us about how society has changed in its approach to man’s mastery over nature, and about contemporary attitudes to China?

Dr Peter Martin
lecturer, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, University of Manchester; Principal Investigator, engaging cogs.
Dr Tao Wang
research fellow, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and at Sussex Energy Group in SPRU, University of Sussex.
Austin Williams
associate professor in architecture, XJTLU University, Suzhou, China; director, Future Cities Project; convenor, Bookshop Barnies; founding member of New Narratives
Catherine Sampson
novelist; resident of Beijing; author of Pool of Unease and Out of Mind; former China correspondent, The Times
Sheila Lewis
director, Volanti Consulting

 Recommended readings
Banks meet over £40bn plan to harness power of Congo river and double Africa's electricity

Hydroelectric dam is largest one conceived. Activists fear output will not help local people.

John Vidal, Guardian Unlimited, 21 April 2008

Beyond Three Gorges in China

The Three Gorges dam has attracted all the headlines but several other major hydro schemes are being developed in China that will rank in the world's top ten.

Neil Ford, International Water Power and Dam Construction, 10 January 2007

Fighting for Thirlmere--The Roots of Environmentalism

A history of the first reaction against modern dams in the UK (and the world).

Harriet Ritvo, Science, 6 June 2003

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