The Three Gorges Project. Introduction.
The Yangtze River (or, Chang Jiang in Chinese) is the largest river in
China and the third largest in the world. It flows through a quarter of the
farmland and supports the living of a third of the population of the country.
As China's "golden waterway", it links the resourceful west and the affluent
east, and provides 70 % of the inland water transportation. There are more
than 30 industrial cities along its coast. Among them at least 10 cities
produce over 10 billion yuans (Ren min bi) of industrial output every year,
while there are only about 20 such cities in the country. As summarized in
Table I at the end of the article, the Yangtze River is of great economic,
political and cultural importance to China.
The controversial Three Gorges Project (TGP, Sanxia Gongcheng in Chin-
ese) was revived not too long ago (see People's Daily, July 16, 1990). As the
project will build a gigantic dam across the Yangtze River, it will inevitably
create significant impacts on the river and affect the living of the people
nearby. For the past few years, many Chinese and foreign experts have
expressed serious concerns over the various aspects of TGP. Despite the
importance of the project, however, the Chinese government is still unwilling
to reveal the debates on TGP to the public.
I believe, regardless of the final decision on TGP, it is our right and
responsibility to know the different opinions on this project. I therefore try
my best to give a brief description on the major aspects of TGP in the
following articles, with the hope to create more attention among us and
to possibly initiate further discussions. I must claim that I am not an expert
in this field. My knowledge about TGP comes mostly from summarizing the
references listed at the end. Of course, due to the limited amount of time and
the resources available, such knowledge could be very incomplete and biased.
I welcome readers to correct any inaccurate information provided in this and in
the following articles.
(to be continued)
- Chianfan Zhang;
Table I. Basic facts about the Yangtze River (in 1985).
Item: The Yangtze River % of the national total:
Drainage area 1.8 million Km^2 20 %
Population 310 million 30 %
Farmland 25 million Ha 25 %
Industry & Agriculture 40 %
Agriculture 44 %
Fishery 65 % of freshwater fish
Navigation 96,000 Km 70 % inland
Note: Ha = hectare = 15 Chinese acres. Km^2 = square kilometers. Metric
units are used in most places to avoid confusion.
(1) Tian Fang, Lin Fatang and Lin Cunxi (Ed.). 1988. On the Macro-Level
Decision Making on the Three Gorges Project. Hunan Press of Science and
(2) Chinese Academy of Science, Group of Ecological and Environmental
Studies on Three Gorges Project (Ed.). 1988. Studies on the Ecological and
Environmental Effects of the Changjiang Three Gorges Project and the
Remedies. Science Press.
(3) Dai Qing (Ed.). 1989. Whether the Changjiang Three Gorges Project
Should be Started. China Books Press.
(4) Jhaveri, Nayna. 1988. The Three Gorges Debacle. The Ecologist 18:
(5) Goldsmith, Edward and Nicholas Hildyard. 1984. The Social and
Environmental Effects of Large Dams. Published by Wadebridge Ecological