When a country commits to any project as monstrous as China's Three Gorges Dam, it is bound to encounter occasional difficulties. The Chinese government, as governments are wont to do, has preferred to gloss over the dam's detriments and emphasize its attributes, like the 84 billion kilowatt hours of electricity it produced last year. But this week the government released a statement acknowledging that the dam has fostered a few "urgent problems" that need addressing.

Numbered among those are: the increasing concentration of raw sewage and pollution and of the algae that feeds on it; the threat of landslides; the shrinking of the Yangtze estuary, where Shanghai is located; and the still-dislocated millions that the dam forced from their homes.

The first step to solving any problem might be admitting it exists, but China has a long road ahead if it's dedicated to fixing these issues. But as Dai Qing, a Chinese environmentalist, told Reuters, these problems might not be the kind that are possible to walk back on. "Now that the dam is in place, no amount of money can fix the problem. It fundamentally cannot be resolved," she said.

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