October 19, 2004


The secret dam: China begins huge project in World Heritage Site, displacing up to 100,000 people and devastating unique tribal societies (Jasper Becker in Beijing and Daniel Howden, 16 October 2004, Independent)

In the shadow of the Jade Dragon Snow Peak, deep inside the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Chinese developers are operating in secret to push through a massive dam project that will wash away the section of the Yangtze river valley thought to have been the real location for the fictional Shangri-La. [...]

The dam is being pushed by the Yunnan government as a way of dealing with the consequences of earlier environmental disasters. Water from the reservoir is to be diverted to dilute the heavily polluted lake which supplies the provincial capital of Kunming.

The industrial centre of the province is being strangled by water shortages despite sitting next to one of the largest fresh-water lakes in Asia. Decades of mismanagement have shrunk the lake and the remaining water is too dirty to drink.

Yunnan's forests have all been chopped down in the past 50 years so not only has Dian Chi lake silted up but so have several reservoirs constructed to solve Kunming's water shortage. The danger posed by silt to the Three Gorges Dam has already forced Yunnan to dam the upper reaches of the Yangtze specifically designed to trap soil that would otherwise wash into the Three Gorges reservoir.

It never ceases to amaze that people think China's infrastructure boondoggles are a sign of progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2004 4:15 PM

But the same kind of thing worked so well in Japan and the USSR, both of which have long since economically crushed the USA. I read it in a book.

P.S. And look at what the Aswan dam did for Egypt! Who wouldn't want one?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 19, 2004 4:40 PM

The US of A has no Boondoggles? Anyone hear of the utopian benefits of higher gas taxes?

Japan would have whipped our b*tt by now if we kept electing Carters and listening to James Fallows. We didn't, so they didn't.

Posted by: h-man at October 19, 2004 4:48 PM

And the EU medical system worth emulating. Same group, same perverse outlook, and non-learners.

Posted by: luciferous at October 19, 2004 4:53 PM

"wash away the section of the Yangtze river valley"..... "earlier environmental disasters" .... "heavily polluted lake" .... "strangled by water shortages" ...... "too dirty to drink" .... "forests have all been chopped down" ...

DAMN that George W. Bush!!!

Posted by: Andrew X at October 19, 2004 5:04 PM

You gotta admit, though, that the Chinese have a special gift for place names: anywhere that there's a Jade Dragon Snow Peak and a Tiger Leaping Gorge has just got to be a cool place for a vacation!

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 19, 2004 5:34 PM

This dam brought to your district by Sen. Loh Belt Byld.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 19, 2004 5:49 PM


Although it's true that China has built, or plans to build, infrastructure projects that could be correctly labeled "boondoggles", your position is just as wrong as that of those who believe that said boondoggles are "progress": You appear to believe that all of China's infrastructure projects are boondoggles.

You also have written that the US' Interstate Highway system is a boondoggle, and are hostile to the concept of individual travel in personally owned automobiles.
Curiously, however, you defend New Hampshire's infrastructure as "necessary", and extol the virtues of your own SUV, a maximally-polluting, rollover prone behemoth.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 19, 2004 5:51 PM

Noi, all of China's infrastructure is probably lousy, but some of it makes sense to have.

The Interstate Highway System wasn't a boondoggle but a mistake.

We don't go anywhere in our SUV.

Posted by: oj at October 19, 2004 6:54 PM

Mr. Judd;

Then why do you have the SUV? Book storage?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 20, 2004 8:51 AM

The Interstate Highway system has had an enormous impact on our economy as it is used by commercial vehicles to transport goods and services quickly and cheaply.

Have you ever driven I95 south to Florida? If so, did you ever go on such wonderful roads as US 301, US 17 and US 1 before I95 was finished? If you cannot understand the clear economic advantage in time, money, peace of mind, that the Interstate provided, then I simply am left speechless.

Posted by: Bart at October 20, 2004 9:52 AM


No, I take the train, a superior social institution.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2004 9:56 AM


To move the kids around town and take the garbage to the dump, without being killed by a moose or deer and to get through the snow.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2004 10:06 AM

The Interstates are also much safer than the US Highway routes.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 21, 2004 3:23 AM

Trains are for the rich. Cars for the poor

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 22, 2004 4:52 PM