China’s Three Gorges Dam plagued by environmental problems

China’s Three Gorges Dam got a lot of flak during construction for its environmental impact and for uprooting over 1 million people. A year after its completion, critics’ concern about the world’s largest hydroelectric project has only increased. The weight of the water behind the dam, along with frequent water-level changes, has begun to erode the Yangtze River shore in several spots, causing landslides. Shorelines downstream are disintegrating, bereft of silt blocked by the dam. Water freed of its silt is rushing faster downriver, damaging dikes and leading to worries that the dam will actually increase the flooding it was built to quell. Raw sewage and fertilizer are collecting in the dam-made 400-mile-long reservoir. Officials are developing landslide warnings, water-treatment systems, and riverbank reinforcement, but fear they may have to evacuate even more people. “We thought of all the possible issues,” says one scientist who was involved in predicting the environmental effects of the project. “But the problems are all more serious than we expected.”

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