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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 May 2006, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Three Gorges dam's social impact

By Jill McGivering, BBC News

The Three Gorges dam

Everything about the Three Gorges dam is huge, including the number of people it has affected.

The reservoir created by the dam has already displaced more than a million people. Another 80,000 are still to be moved as it reaches its final stages.

Some estimates say at least 1,200 villages and two major towns have had to be abandoned and rebuilt.

From the start, the central government promised cash compensation for all those forced to move. It also promised them new homes and new livelihoods.

But that process has been highly controversial.

Many families complained that much, in some cases most, of the compensation due to them was siphoned off by corrupt local bureaucrats.

Official accounts seem to support their complaints that millions of dollars have been embezzled.

The Chinese media has reported that some officials have been investigated for corruption - but the complaints continue.


To some, the dam illustrates the ability of the Chinese government to forge ahead with audacious multibillion dollar projects, heralded as in the long-term good of the nation, but with devastating consequences for local communities who remain largely voiceless.

Those trying to highlight concerns about the social impact of the Three Gorges dam are also worried about the precedent it sets.

The Chinese government sees it as a focus for national pride. It may also prove a model for further big dam projects, part of the country's struggle to meet its growing energy needs.

If the rights of these villagers are not respected, say activists, there is no reason to expect the rights of other displaced communities in the future to be any better safeguarded.

Type: Concrete Gravity Dam
Cost: Official cost $25bn - actual cost believed to be much higher
Work began: 1993
Due for completion: 2009
Power generation: 26 turbines on left and right sides of dam. Six underground turbines planned for 2010
Power capacity: 18,000 megawatts
Reservoir: 660km long, submerging 632 sq km of land. When fully flooded, water will be 175m above sea level
Navigation: Two-way lock system became operational in 2004. One-step ship elevator due to open in 2009.

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