November 16, 2007


One dam thing after another: Sceptics about the world's biggest hydroelectric dam are being vindicated (The Economist, 11/01/07)

PEASANTS in the village of Miaohe on the north bank of the Yangzi River say nothing like it had occurred in their lifetimes, nor those of their parents and grandparents. One afternoon in April, for a few grim seconds, the ground shook beneath them. The Wild Cat landslide, long at rest beneath the terraced maize fields, orange-tree groves and earth-brick houses perched on the steep slope, was stirring.

Experts had long worried about the Wild Cat, 17km (10 miles) upstream from the Three Gorges dam in a narrow stretch of reservoir, in the first of the soaring gorges. Last year a coffer-dam built to protect the main dam during construction was blown up. Monitoring of the landslide zone intensified, for fear that the blast might destabilise it. If the Wild Cat's earth and boulders tumbled down the slope, they could wipe out Miaohe and slam tour boats and barges with giant waves.

Officials have long stressed the dam's benefits: a reduction (some say exaggerated) in flooding downstream; the generation of (very expensive) carbon-free power; and the creation of a 660km-long, navigation-friendly reservoir. The official press has largely ignored the many criticisms of the dam. The authorities have rapidly and sometimes brutally crushed protests by some of the more than 1.2m people moved from the reservoir area, and have often poorly compensated them. Allegations abound of resettlement funds lining officials' pockets.

But in the past few months signs have emerged that, in parts of the government at least, the resolute optimism is wavering.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2007 6:18 AM

The sad thing about this story is the inside the chest of your typical American Suburban Town or City "Trustee" is a tyrant seething with envy over China's ability to engage in this sort of "Taking."

Just imagine the number of small, successful shopping centers run and rented by small businessmen can be "Kelo-ed" or "blighted" to make way for a CostCo or a tony Condo development (the possibilities for campaign donations and sweet inside land deals are endless) if only they had Mao's powers.

Posted by: Bruno at November 16, 2007 8:58 AM

Bruno, alas town fathers and mothers don't need Mao's powers any more. They don’t even need Kelo.

Right here in a little town that time forgot, citizen apathy has handed over control to a small group, perhaps less than a couple of dozen, who have collaborated with like-minded people in the county and taken over, established a CRA over most of the town and are busy giving each other "grants" to help them overcome the blight aka under-developed properties they've snatched up along our previously pristine ocean front.

As usual, the tax payers are getting it in the neck and yesterday for the third year in a row, the incumbents are sailing in with no opposition. Reform candidates having learned their lesson that trying to oust these vermin can’t be done without the help of the Pied Piper of Hamelin who’s in very short supply here in central Florida.

I guess we should be grateful we had it as long as we did.

Posted by: erp at November 17, 2007 9:55 AM