Revisiting the Three Gorges Dam:
Should China continue to build dams on the Yangtze River?
China is considering several large new hydroelectric dam projects on the Yangtze River; while the dams promise to bolster the country’s manufacturing capabilities and provide more clean power, they may have complex repercussions for energy justice.
, , , and
In the Winter of 2015, Mr. Wu Youren, the special assistant on sustainable development to China’s President, was preparing to offer his recommendations on whether or not to approve a proposal of a string of new hydroelectric dam projects on the Jinsha River. This decision came as the famous, controversial Three Gorges Dam celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Before submitting the recommendations, Mr. Wu decided to look back at the Three Gorges Dam project.
This case will explore issues of environmental justice related to the Three Gorges Dam. Weighing these issues against the clear benefits of the Dam on China’s society, economy, and carbon emissions reduction. When reading the case, students will think about and discuss these questions: What lessons do we learn from reviewing the benefits and impacts of the Three Gorges Dam ? Are issues of environmental justice unavoidable, especially considered within the context of China’s political and economic situation at the time? If the new proposal to build a string of dams on the Yangtze River were to be approved, how might we tackle potential injustice problems, given these past lessons? If the proposal were to be denied, how can China attain its carbon emission reduction goals, while still providing for the electricity needs of its population, reducing poverty, and reviving a slowing economy?