The Three Gorges dam project has been controversial at every stage of conception and execution, from concerns about its environmental impact, to allegations that it was unnecessarily large, and merely a poorly-planned vanity project.

Opponents of the project denounced the displacement of huge numbers of local residents (1.9 million) by the lengthy construction project and flooding as a human rights violation, and the project has been plagued with problems since is completion in 2003.

In 1992 Premier Li Peng, who had himself trained as an engineer, was finally able to persuade the National People’s Congress to ratify the decision to build the dam, though almost a third of its members abstained or voted against the project—an unprecedented sign of resistance from a normally acquiescent party body—this indicates just how bad an idea it was considered at the time.
It was widely agreed that several smaller dams would generate the same levels of electricity, but with a far less impact, but the CCP was insistent on showing the world they had the power to ‘tame’ the mighty Yangtze river.

The endemic corruption under the CCP was rife within the project, and it came at the cost of dangerously reduced quality of materials and adherence to minimum levels of structural integrity, and little or no oversight or quality control.

The World Bank refused to advance China funds to help with the project, citing major environmental and other concerns, and President Jiang Zemin did not accompany President Li Peng to the official inauguration of the dam in 1994.

The Spectator recalls why a collapse is possible;

It is plausible because during construction there were nearly a hundred reported instances of corruption, bribery and embezzlement, including 16 cases directly related to construction. The dam’s principal sponsor, former Premier Li Peng, used his position to appoint relatives to senior positions in the construction company. On completion and, with several hundred thousand forcibly relocated inhabitants denied their full resettlement entitlements, Li’s family ended up controlling 15 per cent of China’s power generation industry.

The Spectator, Aug 1

The Chinese Communist Party’s prestige project was hugely costly – officially it is expected to have cost $22.5 billion USD, but unofficial estimates say it could have cost at least three times that amount.

The straw hardhat is symbolic of the Three Gorges Dam

The hydro-power gravity dam began construction in 1994 and was completed in 2003. Spanning 2.33 km across the Yangtze River in southwestern China, the project required 129 nearby cities to be flooded, and almost 2 million people to be relocated. Displaced residents saw no more than 10% of the ‘compensation fund’ allocated by the CCP, as most of it was kept by regional directors and party officials.

Over 1,000 archaeological and historic sites were submerged by the dam, and adding to the toxic soup of a reservoir – 1600 drowned mines and factories.

The environmental impacts of the Three Gorges Dam has been massive to say the least, from the weight of the water in the reservoir causing earthquakes and the very bedrock the dam sits on to shift, to the high water-levels in the area causing huge landslides and soil erosion into the Yangtze river, resulting in the mud and silt collecting at the base of the Dam, as well as the fact that’s estimated that the concentration of weight from the water and concrete has slowed the Earth’s rotation down by 0.06 microseconds per day.

Other issues are significant deforestation of the area, and poor or incapable dam waste management – the dam is constantly choked with garbage, both on the surface, and at it’s base. The dam is so massive that it has created a micro-climate that has threatened the ecosystem of the region.
Not to mention, 265 million gallons of raw sewage is deposited in the Yangtze River each year. The reservoir causes it to collect and results in toxic algae growth.

Scrutiny of the dam intensified recently when it was noticed that there appeared to be significant changes in the dam when seen from satellite imagery. The CCP admitted that there had been some movement in the dam, but it was well within acceptable limits, and claimed the warping in the dam as seen on Google earth was more an issue with the way the imagery was ‘stitched’ together.
A new dam has since been inserted over the original satellite imagery on Google Earth. Classic CCP.

On July 8, 2020, amidst the current 100-year rainfall levels, the dam’s state-owned operator addressed concerns about the dam’s structural integrity in a statement, saying that the dam was safe. But since July 5, the company has closed off the dam from visiting tourists and all media foreign and domestic, making Chinese netizens nervous.
Another factor that made seasoned China watchers nervous is that state-run media Global Times suddenly reported; Three Gorges Dam ‘not at risk of collapse,’ safe for heavy rainfall: experts. It’s a reliable rule of thumb that whatever the Global Times reports, it’s safe to assume the reality is the complete opposite.

Fan Xiao, a Chinese geologist and long-standing critic of giant dam projects, said the rumors reflected the lack of debate about the Three Gorges project, which was now considered a “national treasure” that should not be criticized. On June 23rd, Fan told The Epoch Times his superiors had instructed him earlier in the day “not to take any foreign media interviews.”
“If talking about problems is stigmatized, then it is nothing more than putting one’s head in the sand and deceiving oneself,” Fan posted on his WeChat account on Monday. “It will solve no problems and could make them worse.”

The dam can only temporarily intercept flooding upstream, but it can do nothing to the flooding from heavy rains in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze

Fan Xiao – the Asia Times.

Dr Wang Weiluo – collapse maybe be imminent

Dr Wang Weiluo, a German-Chinese hydraulic engineer, has studied the Three Gorges Dam for decades. In a July 8 analysis published (requires translation) on Yibao, a Chinese website for current affairs commentary, Wang predicted that based on the current satellite images, the dam would not last longer than 50 years, which means it only has roughly 30 more years left.
There are four relatively large earthquake faults in Hubei Province, and three of them are located in proximity to the dam.

“Although these faults are short and small, ranging from dozens of miles to approximately 100 miles, being so close to the Three Gorges Dam makes them a serious threat to the safety of the dam”.

Dr Wang Weiluo – The Epoch Times

Dr Wang said that the Three Gorges Project has not been checked and certified since its commissioning in 2003, as no one dares to guarantee its quality or safety.

Recently authorities have opened all water discharge gates amid heavy rainfall in China, and several several issues with the dam are now coming to light; there were several engineering errors and design problems in the dam itself when it was built, among these are that its hydraulic slope is calculated incorrectly, which could bring disaster in itself, and that its flood control benefits are now shown to have been greatly exaggerated.

The CCP’s official narratives of the dam’s abilities have been walked back; in 2003, an article headline from state-media Xinhua said the dam could withstand a once-in-a-10,000-year flood. The wording was changed to 1,000 years in 2007, then 100 years in 2008; and in 2010, a TV anchor at state broadcaster CCTV cited the Changjiang Water Resources Commission, which has direct oversight over the Yangtze River Basin, saying that people “cannot place all their hopes on the Three Gorges Dam.”

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Dr Wang Weiluo pointed out that many of the dam’s goals can’t be achieved simultaneously as the CCP attempted.
Dr Wang noted that power generation conflicts with flood control, shipping conflicts with flood control, mud storage and clearing conflict, also power generation and flood control, and shipping and irrigation conflict, power generation and mud drainage and shipping also conflict, and so basically Dr Wang is saying the CCP tried making the dam do just about everything, and because they tried to make it do everything its different functions ended up undermining the other functions, which overall undermines the basic functions and integrity of the dam.
Dr Wang Weiluo also noted;

It was demonstrated that the advantage of the Three Gorges Dam was that it can effectively control the downstream water volume. The current situation is just the other way around; when the downstream is dry the dam needs to store water, when the downstream is flooded the three gorges dam needs to discharge flood waters.

Dr Wang Weiluo
Photo taken on July 19, 2020 shows floodwater being discharged from the Three Gorges Dam.

Questions around Construction Quality

There are also quality issues with the dam which are becoming more apparent. The CCP strictly controls information on the quality of the dam, and so most of the data on the dam has come from the CCP itself, yet this hasn’t been enough to silence researchers.

Among the issues are that several sections of the dam show issues of horizontal displacement, there’s cracking in multiple areas which has been attributed to the dam being constructed and inspected as multiple separate projects rather than a single whole with a standardized quality. In other words, the dam was built in sections, and each section was treated as a separate project.

Recently cracks have been showing which apparently are among these sections, also holes that were drilled in 2002 at key parts of its 800 ton gate were never properly filled. Instead of drilling then recasting the holes, authorities only applied layer of chemical coating that is supposed to prevent leakage. On top of this there were issues with the high slope of the ship lock where cracks began appearing as far back as 2002, which could also affect the opening and closing of these ship lock gates.
These are just a few of the details which were explained in depth in a series of articles from The Epoch Times published in Chinese.

The Three Gorges Dam is now coming under the international spotlight at the moment, as authorities have repeatedly opened the floodgates amid the heavy rains and floods, causing observers to ask why.
The CCP has been given a choice in this; the dam itself does not appear to be able to withstand the floods, and so they had to choose between opening the gates and flooding different cities downstream, or letting the dam collapse and flooding them all.

Maximum reservoir level: 175 meters

In addition, reports are that that the CCP didn’t warn many of the downstream towns and cities before it opened these floodgates, and many people’s homes were flooded in the middle of the night.
Locals know the area well, and know there wasn’t sufficient rainfall overnight to cause such a dramatic rise in the water level, so it’s clear the CCP are regularly releasing massive amounts of water from the dam in the middle of the night under the cover of darkness to relieve pressure on the structure.

There were also reports of people not knowing in advance to shut off their electricity and being killed, and of people being killed in their sleep by the floods.
In addition to this there is already serious flooding downstream from the heavy rains, and in many parts of China local authorities have been forced to destroy dams and dykes to manage the flood waters in Anhui province, sacrificing local farming provinces to minimize damage to bigger cities.

For something to happen with the dam in addition to the floods already would mean massive disaster.

Once-in-100-year-rains” – welcome to 2020

China is currently experiencing biblical levels of rain and floods, but because China is a foe of Trump, the Western news media has largely ignored this calamity.

Due to heavy rainfall on July 26th, the water flow in the upper reaches of the Yangtze river, such as Min Jiang river, Jialing river, and the Three Gorges area increased significantly, and the inflow rate in the Three Gorges reservoir rose rapidly to 50,000 cubic meters per second.
As a result the bureau of hydrology of the Chongqing water resources commission officially announced that the Yangtze river flood, number three of 2020, and the maximum flow into the three gorges reservoir was expected to be around 60,000 cubic meters per second on the evening of July 27th.

In anticipation of the new flood peak the Three Gorges Dam increased its water discharge beforehand, and on July 24th the water outflow from the dam soared to 45,600 cubic meters per second, setting a new record for this year. Netizens have estimated that the dam may have opened all nine floodgates to release flood waters before the next deluge.

The once-in-a-hundred-year rainfall is expected to only get heavier throughout the month of August, and if the dam collapses, it’s expected to do so by end of August, 2020.

The biggest flood in the history of Jiangxi county according to netizens.

Chinese citizens have complained on social media that the most vicious thing was that the government secretly released the flood without informing the citizens to evacuate early because it would save the cost of compensating them for their property. By making man-made disasters seem like a natural disaster the CCP avoids culpability and having to pay compensation, and people are likely (expected) to then thank the Communist Party for any help and aid.

Not only is there concern about flooding in big cities, but also about the poor people in flood prone areas. Anhui province, located in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river, was sacrificed to keep Nanjing and Wuhan city safe, causing farmers to lose entire crops at a time when China’s food security was already threatened by the CCP virus, locusts, and floods.

According to state-media Xinhua News, the State Defense Office, the ministry of emergency management, and the State Administration of Food and Material Reserves transferred 1 woven bags and woven cloth, geo-textiles, and other types of flood control supplies to Anhui province to support the flood rescue work, but provides not a penny of relief funds and necessities for the people.

According to official data from China’s ministry of emergency management; from June 1st to July 22nd the floods caused over 4.5 million people in Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Guangzhou, Guangdong, Chongqing, Sichuan, and another 27 provinces to be affected, a reported 142 people killed or missing, 35,000 houses collapsed, and incurred a direct economic losses of 116.05 billion Yuan, or $16.6 billion USD.
As of August 8th, the water level of the Yangtze River continues to rise.

At a time when tens of millions of people are suffering from flooding, facing life-threatening events and serious property losses, not a single high-ranking Chinese official has gone to the disaster area to inspect and guide the relief efforts.

Xi Jinping visited North East China from July 22nd to 24th, and inspected a military school at which he talked about preserving State power.

In the eyes of CCP officials the people in the flood affected areas can just be sacrificed at any time – what they really care about is maintaining the stability of the regime.
China has been besieged by floods since June, has fallen out with the US and damaged its foreign relations, and the international community is reevaluating their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
Xi is preparing for war and not concerned with the flooding, and will release as much water as possible to try and prevent the repercussions of the dam collapsing.

Just before the number three flood on July 24th, the Three Gorges Dam designer and the academic of the Chinese academy of engineering, Zheng Shouren, known in China as T’he Father of the Three Gorges Dam’ passed away due to illness. While the dam that he left behind remains a controversial subject, Zheng once made a well-known and worrying statement; “you can’t blame the three gorgeous project whenever you encounter extreme weather“.

Zheng Shouren - Three Gorges Dam
Zheng Shouren. Jan 30, 1940 – July 24, 2020.

Dr Wang Weiluo, the hydraulic expert, wrote that the current public outcry is not just a “general abstract blame“, but has specific reasons. Before the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the Yangtze river had a series of lakes such as the Dongtang lake and Polyang lake for flood regulation, and when there is flooding the lakes would naturally divide the flood and prevent overflow in the main stream.
After the flood, the floodwater entering the lakes would slowly enter the mainstream of the Yangtze river once again, so that the Yangtze river would maintain a more stable water level. This way the ecology is balanced naturally and both navigation and irrigation are guaranteed.

Now that the CCP has built a huge dam the original natural cycle has been abolished. Take Poyang lake as an example; every October is the Three Gorges Dam water storing period and is also the dry season in Jiangxi province, so the Poyang lake is in urgent need of water replenishment, however in order to generate electricity the Dam stops the water flow instead, allowing only a little bit of water to flow into the Yangtze river, which would eventually lead to a serious disaster of the lakes down stream drying up.

Poyang Lake after 3GD

Recently a strange phenomena has been captured in multiple Chinese provinces – fish have been seen jumping out of the water in large numbers. This is thought to be a warning sign of impending natural disaster, such as a massive earthquake.

Not The First Catastrophic Dam Collapse In China

Banqiao Dam collapse, August, 1975 – 230,000 lives lost.

In august, 1975, typhoon Nina battered China for days, dumping more than a year’s worth of rain in 24 hours. By the time night fell on Aug. 8, as many as 65 dams in the area had collapsed. The Soviet built Banqiao Dam was built to handle a once in a 1,000 year deluge, unfortunately Typhoon Nina would turn out to be a once in 2,000 year storm, bearing down with enough force to cause the world’s deadliest infrastructure failure ever.

It’s estimated that the sudden Banqiao dam collapse unleashed 600 billion liters of water, killing 85,000 people instantly, and a study conducted by eight Chinese water science experts who probably had access to censored government reports, estimated the number of total dead — from flooding and the resulting epidemics and famine — at 230,000.


A Video Simulation of a Collapse is Leaked

On July 23rd a video of a Three Gorges Dam failure simulation was widely circulated on the internet. According to the video and through analysis of existing data, if the dam was to collapse flood waters of up to 100 meters in height would be released at a speed of more than 100 kilometres per hour.

Within 30 minutes of collapse the floodwaters would destroy nearby dams directly downstream, and reach the city of Yichang, destroying it with a current speed of 70 kilometres per hour, and within five hours the water level in Yichang would reach 10 meters.

After that the flood waters will continue to flood towns along the route at a speed of 60 kilometres per hour, with flood heights of about 15 to 20 meters. When the flood waters reach the open plains they will spread out greatly increasing the area affected. The destruction would be complete all the way to, and including Shanghai.

It’s estimated the death toll could be as high as 400 million people. This would be 1,700 times higher than any recorded death toll from a man-made disaster (Banqiao Dam collapse, China, 1975).
A nuclear attack on China’s five largest cities would result in less deaths than a sudden collapse of the Three Gorges Dam, and a breach would spell the CCP’s Chernobyl moment.

Anhui province’s first line flood control personnel told foreign media after watching the video that “it was most likely a simulation made by semi-official government agencies – the general public cannot make such professional projections.” The video caused quite a stir in the internet;

The Three Gorges Dam – constructed from the highest grade of Chineseium.

*Further reading; Murdered for Their Rivers: A Roster of Fallen Dam Fighters.

The stories come to us one at a time. A woman’s body found in a trash heap. Two protesters shot during a demonstration. A man who just stepped out for milk gunned down by masked assailants on a motorcycle

In 2015, at least 185 environmental defenders were killed, according to Global Witness. Many of them were dam fighters. At International Rivers, we’re aware of over a hundred activists who have paid the ultimate price for defending their rivers – and there are likely many more cases we’re not aware of.