- Thoughts on The Three Gorges Dam
- by Dan Armstrong
Early into the new millenium the world's largest hydroelectric dam will come to completion in China. A confluence of flows from the snowy ranges of Tibet, surging from the headwaters of Everest like the Great Knowledge, the Yangtze River will be bridled by twenty-six mammoth generators, creating 18,200 megawatts of electricity to power electric lights and televisions for a quarter-billion Chinese. The electronic village will grow by nearly twenty percent. And so, it is speculated, will the number of world consumers. Though large dams are no longer considered ecologically viable by experts in the West, this gargantuan $50 billion, 20-year project holds the hopes of all China and, as Wall Street oh, so delicately banks on Asia, an integral part of the world's economic future.
When set in historical perspective, the building of the Three Gorges Dam conjures a sense of the mythic. The undertaking is just so huge and proceeds so slowly, it seems some twenty-first century pyramid or Great Wall. More than 345,000 tons of rebar and 27 million cubic meters of concrete will go into the construction of this 180-meter tall, two-kilometer river partition. And tied, as it is, so intricately inside and out, to large international financial concerns, the damming of the world's third largest river assumes the quality of a monstrous physical allegory: the New World Order's corporate networking bet against the limitations of the land. In no small way, China's prosperity is staked to altering the Tao of its single most important natural resource, the Yangtze River.
Industrialization of the developing world already offers a serious challenge to the world's environment. Trends in arable land, clean water, and atmospheric chemistry task world food resources and in the years to come will enter into the balance of long-term international economic stability. Poised upon these critical trends are China's industrial future, grain prices worldwide, and the integrity of the international financial community. The Three Gorges Dam, offering multi-billion dollar investment opportunities and untold environmental impact, sits Sphinx-like at the intersection of these converging forces. Arguably, the very viability of the capitalist free market is hinged upon the outcome of this gigantic project, taking place, ironically, in the People's Republic of China.