Evaluating Sustainability Of The Three Gorges Dam Environmental Sciences Essay

July 22, 2017 Environmental Sciences

The intent of the undertaking is to set up a holistic sustainability assessment for the Three Gorges Dam, TGD, and supply reasoned recommendations to better the sustainability of the undertaking as a whole to the full sing the mutuality of the current procedures within the system. To enable the sustainability appraisal to be carried out, boundaries have been established to restrict the temporal and spacial range of the appraisal. This study will measure the sustainability public presentation of the TGD, with focal point on the undertakings consequence on the milieus and the Chinese people during the building and the operational stage of the undertaking. In making so the study focuses on the political, economic, societal, proficient and environmental procedures within the system, making a model of mutualist procedures from which sustainability issues can be identified and chances for synergism betterment established. The recommendations of this study will try to offer holistic betterments to the sustainability of the TGD and besides future hydroelectric dike undertakings within a wider system boundary.

Case History

China ‘s hydroelectricity plan is one of the most ambitious in the universe, with over 20,000 big dikes presently in operation, near to that of the remainder of the universe combined[ 1 ]. This aspiration has led to the completion of the TGD, presently the largest dike in the universe. The China Three Gorges Corporation, CTGPC, a province owned company charged with pull offing the building, operation and care of the dike, began operations with a clear intent “ To construct a first-class hydropower works to excite the growing of the local economic system, better the local environment, and benefit resettled occupants ” . This modern intent nevertheless is predated by an original vision by Yat-sen Sun, the fore-most innovator of nationalist China in 1919, who planned to “ better the upstream from here ” proposing “ a dike should be set here to allow ships travel downstream and utilize the H2O resource as power ”[ 2 ]. The Three Gorges Dam had become a national end for about 80 old ages and was realised upon the dike ‘s completion in 2009.

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Now complete, the concrete gravitation dike stretches 2,309m across the Yangtze River near the town of Sandouping, located in the Yiling District of Yichang, Hubei state, at a tallness of 185m. The building of the dike took 16 old ages at an official cost of $ 25 billion, although the exact figure is widely regarded to be significantly higher than this amount[ 3 ]. The building of the dike was carried out in three stages ;

Phase 1 ( 1993-1997 ) – Preliminary design reappraisal, formation of CTGPC and river closing

Phase 2 ( 1998-2003 ) – Construction of dike organic structure, reservoir started impounding and first generator officially integrated into the power grid

Phase 3 ( 2004-2009 ) – Last generating unit installed, dike organic structure completed, roller compacted caisson removed so TGD began barricading the Yangtze River making the reservoir, dual-line five phase ship lock completed. All building undertakings set in the undertakings initial design were completed

Completed in 2009, the TGD provides ; important benefits for inundation control to countries environing the Yangtze River, Clean hydroelectric energy production, increased navigability of the Yangtze River for trade and ecological H2O refilling for the center and lower ranges of the River[ 4 ]. Significant values for these benefits include ; a inundation frequence betterment from one time in every 10 old ages to every 100 old ages significantly bettering the safety of dwellers downstream, production of 84.7 TWh of ‘clean ‘ electricity ( tantamount to firing 50 million dozenss of coal ) , addition from 10 million to 60 million dozenss in one-year transition capacity and cut downing cargo costs by 1/33. However, China ‘s important experience in the field of big hydraulic dike does non needfully equal success as there are widespread unfavorable judgments of the TGD for the societal and environmental deductions caused by its installing, such as the big graduated table resettlement and relocation of 1.24 million vale dwellers[ 5 ]and important break to the natural environment.

The importance in designation of such sustainability issues of the TGD are farther compounded as the dike is proposed to go a portion of a cascade web of six big hydroelectric dikes along the Yangtze River, many of which are presently under building. As a consequence it is non merely of import to measure the sustainability of the TGD to supply benefit in this instance, but for cognition gained from the TGD to be utilised in the proposed dikes schemes shacking within similar economic, societal, environmental etc conditions. Hence, where possible, this study will try to urge solutions that could be used to profit similar systems beyond the boundary of this study.

Stakeholder Analysis

Due to the complexness of the system being analysed, a clear apprehension of the cardinal stakeholders ‘ desires and motivations for the undertaking must be established. Understanding the involvement and several power of each stakeholder will let for dynamic solutions to recognize the demands of the ‘interested ‘ yet less influential stakeholders and aim the stakeholders with the most influence to incite alteration. An index system is besides applied to each stakeholder to exemplify the sphere in which their aims for the TGD apply.





Transporting companies

Electricity companies

Local husbandmans


Insurance companies

Forced re-settlers

Local Council

National Government


Human rights administrations



City inhabitants




Figure 2. Stakeholder Interest and Influence
















Fulfil dikes purpose


Make money

National Government

Flood protection/clean energy production

Local Council

Increased trade, successful resettlement scheme

Forced re-settlers

Fair compensation/ right to talk

Insurance companies

Reliable and safe operation


Salary/job satisfaction

Electricity companies

Reliable supply of energy


Minimise harm to environment

Human rights administrations

Fair and consistent intervention of those effected

Transporting companies

Reliable entree to transportation paths


Future developments/maintenance

Downstream husbandmans

Reliable H2O supply


Preservation of historical sites

City inhabitants

Supply of inexpensive clean energy

Table 1. Stakeholder Aims

System Architecture

To efficaciously measure the current sustainability of the TGD, a comprehensive apprehension of the procedures present in the system throughout building and the operational stage must foremost be established, paying close attending to the mutuality of these actions.

A PESTE model ( political, environmental, societal, proficient and economic ) has been chosen to categorize the procedures in the system foregrounding the important positive and negative emergent belongingss brought approximately by the combined actions of the procedures identified. The model efforts to steer the user through the beds of the system exemplifying cardinal sustainability issues and leting the user to follow the beginning of procedures through the usage of positive and negative tracts. The architecture can be seen in figure 2.

By 1/3

1 in 100 old ages

Key sustainability issues

Positive way

Positive Emergent Properties

Negative Way

Negative Emergent Properties


4-6 million

3 %

Figure 2. PESTE Architectural Framework

4.1 Architecture Appraisal

The architecture has illustrated several positive and negative emergent belongingss of the current system. In many instances the negative emergent belongingss have been driven by sustainability issues deemed to possess important possible for holistically bettering the sustainability of the system.

Through the usage of the negative way indexs it is possible to follow the beginning of these sustainability issues throughout the system. Interestingly, this hint reveals that many of the subsequent negative emergent belongingss of the system originate from two key nucleus procedures: Resettlement and Resettlement and Reservoir creative activity. However, these two are interrelated and so consideration should be shown to the effects of actions on each of these procedures.

In some cases the architecture identifies a procedure that leads to both positive and negative results foregrounding that the procedures in themselves are complex issues that must be considered in integrity every bit good as portion of the ‘bigger image ‘ .

Measurement Government

A measuring government has been introduced to, where possible, quantify the graduated table of the issues presented in the architecture in order to foremost estimate the badness of the issue, and secondly, exemplify countries where possible betterments could be made. The government covers both bluish and green sustainability issues to help in estimating the overall sustainability of the TGD as a concern entity and its environmental sustainability. To supply a comparing, the TGD has been measured alongside the Itaipu Dam which is situated across Brazil and Paraguay. This dike undertaking was selected as it is presently the 2nd largest hydroelectricity capacity dike in the universe and is situated outside of China to ease chance for outside influence on the TGD. The measuring government is shown in table 2.

Three Gorges Dam

Itaipu Dam


“ To construct a first-class hydropower works to excite the growing of the local economic system, better the local environment, and benefit resettled occupants ”

“ To bring forth quality electricity via socially and environmentally responsible patterns, and to further sustainable economic, tourer, and technological development in Brazil and Paraguay. ”



Generating capacity:

Area flooded:

Completion day of the month:

Number of people relocated:

Concrete Gravity

Yangtze river, China


632 km2



Hollow core Concrete Gravity

Parana River, Brazil & A ; Paraguay


1,350 km2



Official Cost of Scheme

$ 25bn

$ 18bn

Payback Period

19.2 old ages

~ 15 old ages

Operation and Care

$ 0.92bn

$ 1.72bn

Net incomes 2009

$ 1.97bn

~ $ 2bn

Power produced 2009

79.4 TWh

91.6 TWh

Percentage of states electricity supply

3 % China

25 % Brazil, 78 % Paraguay

Number of people relocated /km2 flooded



Power produced/ km2 flooded in 2009

0.12 TWh/km2

0.06 TWh/km2

kilogram CO2 saved /annum

1.26 ten 1011

1.54 ten 1011

Actions to cut down ecological impact

‘Dalaoling works protection zone ‘

‘Chinese Sturgeon Nature Reserve Project ‘

‘Ancient Woods Protection Project ‘

‘Mymba Kuera ‘ – minimise affects of deluging on zoologies

‘Gralha Azul ‘ – minimise deforestation

Table 2. Measurement RegimeActions to cut down silting of dike

Plan to build four extra dikes upstream to move as hydroelectric siltation dikes

Conservation monitoring plan designed to place countries with greatest deposit production and extenuate cause of extra deposit

Green Sustainability

Blue Sustainability


The systems architecture has identified a important array of sustainability benefits of the TGD, such as the positive emergent belongings of an improved local economic system, which has undergone a considerable transmutation as the GDP for 20 environing counties has increased 259 % from 1996 degrees.[ 6 ]However a important figure of environmental and societal issues have detracted from the TGD success as a sustainable system.

The current province of the Three Gorges Dam has seen many of the sustainability issues originate as a effect of old ages of development. As such, many of the cardinal causes of these issues identified in the architecture can non be mitigated straight as they are an built-in procedure in accomplishing the ‘purpose ‘ of the system. Hence this study categorises the sustainability impacts as: Impacts that can be mitigated through action, and impacts that can non be mitigated. The chances for sustainability and synergism betterment for the TGD will be sought from recommendations that will concentrate on impacts that can be mitigated without compromising the intent of the undertaking. Further recommendations will be provided for impacts that can non be mitigated, for usage in similar big graduated table dike building.

As a big hydroelectric dike, the TGD lends itself to be straight compared to other dikes of its type. As can be seen from the measuring government, the TGD excels in some cases such as the power produced per km2 flooded, which in bend reduces the environmental impact caused by deluging a larger country for the same power production. However in some instances the Itaipu Dam provides more important benefits such as the proportion of the state ‘s energy supply the dike provides. However, this higher proportion consequences in increased dependance which can take to terrible crises in the event of a drouth.

The Relocation and relocation undertaking for the TGD was officially completed in 2008[ 7 ], with the resettlement of 1.24 million people from the Three Gorges area5. However authorities functionaries besides announced in 2007 “ at least 4 million people from the Three Gorges Reservoir country are to be relocated to metropoliss in the following 10 to 15 old ages ”[ 8 ]contradictory to the official statement. As a consequence, resettlement and relocation remains a important sustainability issue for the Three Gorges Project.

The Three Gorges resettlement scheme is controlled and implemented by the national authorities[ 9 ], making a top down procedure which resulted in the exclusion of major stakeholders when doing cardinal determinations. Many of these stakeholders are illustrated in figure 2, such as the re-settlers themselves. Identifying and including the cardinal stakeholders in determinations would guarantee the demands of those affected by the determinations are to the full considered ensuing in many of the important sustainability issues illustrated in the architecture being improved upon.

Possibly the most important parent procedure for many of the sustainability issues identified in this study is the creative activity of the Three Gorges Reservoir, TGR. The system architecture demonstrates that many of the identified sustainability issues could be resolved by direct use of the reservoir features such as the size, degree and volume of H2O retained. However, as this would do important hurt to the operations of the dike, chances for sustainability betterment will be sought from subsequent procedures that have been identified.

Increasing silt sedimentations in the reservoir has important possible to do major environmental harm and set human lives at hazard. This has prompted the Chinese Government to originate the building of an extra four dike upstream of the TGD in an attempt to command river deposit flow. However this offers merely a short term solution as the life of a siltation dike is normally short[ 10 ]; hence a long term solution should be sought.

Since its creative activity, there have been 91 instances of landslides in the part of the TGR during which 36km of shoreline has collapsed into the reservoir ensuing in a big figure of deceases and important belongings damage5. Although a authorities led early warning system is in topographic point, there is chance for community engagement in the designation of risky parts.

Decisions and Recommendations

There has been considerable investing, RMB 349 million ( $ 53.6 million ) , by the Chinese Government for the environmental protection attempt of the Three Gorges country[ 11 ]. This on-going attempt has been successful in many cases by supplying diagnostic solutions to the immediate jobs at manus. Examples of this include the farther resettlement of occupants believed to be in high hazard countries for landslides. However, more comprehensive and cardinal solutions should be sought to aim the true cause of the job and non the subsequent symptoms, to restrict the demand for diagnostic solutions.

Supplying such solutions to a system every bit complex as the TGD presents a important challenge as many of the issues would hold been more easy controlled if identified prior to building. This in itself nevertheless, creates chance. The TGD should move as a valuable instrument in look intoing the effects of big hydroelectric dike and will besides be used in this study to propose actions applicable to the prospective dike upstream of the TGD. It must be noted besides that the solutions provided in many cases will necessitate clip for the benefits to go evident as actions and effects are separated by a hold.[ 12 ]Recommendations and mechanisms for execution are shown in table 3.



Mechanism for execution


Selective Coarse Sediment ( CS ) dredging of the reservoir to alleviate sediment build-up

Removal of harsh deposit by dredging can significantly cut down the deposit construct up in a reservoir[ 13 ]

Dredged deposit should be released downstream to heighten birthrate downstream

Alternatively dredging could turn out profitable as sand is a desirable edifice stuff.


Further investing in the engagement of communities for early warning landslide system

Develop a part broad community based strategy educating locals how to place possible landslide parts

set up an efficient communicating web to administer cognition rapidly and efficaciously


Designation and engagement of all cardinal stakeholders from undertaking construct to completion.

The National Government must advance effectual channels of communicating to advance stakeholder battle

Stakeholders with high interest/low power ( re-settlers, etc ) must be heard to set up demands to be provided by stakeholders with high influence


Development of a holistic and dynamically flexible resettlement plan

Needs of affected stakeholders to the full considered

Eventuality allowance for unexpected costs

Rigorous monitoring of hard currency flow and execution

Define intent of plan to run into the demands of those effected


Comprehensive appraisal of the possible impacts of reservoir creative activity prior to building

Stakeholder engagement key for this procedure

Develop worst instance scenarios and extenuation schemes for fast and effectual response

Make a dynamic theoretical account for appraisal to accommodate to variable conditions

Strive for designation of ‘unknown terra incognitas ‘


Use nature and graduated table of issues as an chance for research and development

Large graduated table research carried out into the societal and environmental effects to intensify scientific cognition of big hydroelectric dike.

Particular Fieldss should include: land stableness, consequence of decreased deposit flow downstream, public assistance of re-settlers

Integrate findings into national scheme for big hydroelectric dikes

Table 3. Recommendations


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