After Three Gorges Dam: What Have We Learned?

The UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design will host a symposium on April 13–14, 2012, After Three Gorges Dam: What Have We Learned?

The Three Gorges Dam was completed on the Yangtze River in 2009. At 185 meters high, the dam inundated 1,084 square kilometers of land, displacing at least 1.4 million people. In May 2011, the State Council of the Chinese Government, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, officially stated the urgent need to solve problems caused by the project’s escalating, social, environmental and public safety impacts. This confirmation gives credence to the findings of experts, both within China and in other countries, who have long expressed concerns about the cumulative impacts of the world’s largest megaproject. These scientists, engineers and economists have not had the opportunity to present their evaluations together in an open forum.

China is at a critical point in its development path. It has invested heavily in large scale infrastructure projects like the Three Gorges Dam. Rapid economic development has overpowered concern for long term environmental and social costs. The Three Gorges Dam is not only a major infrastructure project in its own right — affecting the lives of 400 million people living in the Yangtze Valley; it is also a test case of how China can plan, execute and mitigate projects that transform its environment.

The symposium will convene invited experts both from within China, and outside, who are knowledgeable about the planning and environmental assessments of large dams, particularly the Three Gorges Project. We invite speakers to share their evaluations of anticipated and surprising project impacts, future long term impacts, and recommended management actions to minimize adverse impacts. These ideas and analyses could help shape further massive investment in new hydropower dams, whether in China or other developing countries.

Participants will explore four questions:

  • What have we learned through the planning, construction and monitoring of the Three Gorges Dam?
  • What are the expected impacts over the next 50 years and beyond?
  • What can be done to mitigate adverse impacts?
  • How can this experience inform improved project planning and management for other large hydropower dam projects?

The symposium is organized by Phil Williams, Raymond Wong and Matt Kondolf at UC Berkeley, Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning; Baruch Boxer, professor emeritus at Rutgers University and visiting scholar at Stanford University; Patricia Adams, executive director of Probe International, Toronto; and Ren Xinghui, researcher at the Transition Institute, Beijing.

Participants include Baruch Boxer, Daqing Chen, Chen Guojie, Zhongyuan Chen, Cheng Xiaotao, Dai Qing, Fan Xiao, Ren Xinghui, Weng Lida, Xu Ming, Yang Shi-Lun, Zhang Jingsheng, Hua-wei Zhou, Matt Kondolf and Phil Williams.

For more information, visit the LAEP department website. Registration is required here.

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