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Flotsam, Jetsam and the Three Gorges Dam
Regine Debatty, 9 Dec 07

0aaferiu78.jpgOn the left, an aerial shot of the dam (image The Times)

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest project in China since the Great Wall and the Grand Canal. The hydroelectric river dam, probably the biggest concrete construction in the world, spans the Yangtze River. The total electric generating capacity of the dam will reach 22,500 MW, at which point it will also claim the title of the largest hydro-electric power station in the world by capacity. The dam is not expected to become fully operational until about 2011.

Unfortunately and despite the economic benefits such as flood control and hydroelectric power, the project also sets records for number of people displaced (at least 1.3 million), number of cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages). The 600 kilometre long reservoir will flood some 1,300 archaeological sites and the effects on the environment is quite frightening (the quality of water in the higher banks of Yangtze is falling rapidly, biodiversity is in danger, etc.)

A billboard in the port of Wushan shows the height that the water will reach, ultimately submerging all of its wharf facilities (image BBC)

Flotsam Jetsam, is an art project produced by Patty Chang and David Kelley in the Three Gorges area and currently on view at the Franco Soffiantino gallery in Turin.

Chang & Kelley, Captain, 2007

Upstairs is a screening of the Flotsam Jetsam video along with photographic material. Downstairs, there's a wooden model of the submarine and Embankment, an experimental documentary created during a research trip in the Three Gorges area and which you're invited to watch lying on water beds.

Submarine Head and Tail (Italian version)

Very quietly and elegantly, the work engages with landscape's relationship to identity, in the midst of the deep infrastructural changes at the Three Gorges site. The first video details the process of fabricating a submarine, launching it below the Three Gorges Dam, following the submarine’s progress along the river and through the dam’s boat locks to the reservoir. Along this journey various performances are enacted. These vernacular tales compose a third narrative regarding landscapes link to imagination. Inspired from a collection of sources including: Chairman Mao’s many swims in the Yangtze, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and contemporary news’ exposés on economic development and imaginaries of the Asia ’s modernization.

Chang & Kelley, Hua Building Shot and Reverse, 2007

More images from the exhibition.
At the Franco Soffiantino gallery, Turin, until January 19.

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The Three Gorges Dam is certainly impressive, and it's a good initiative as far as renewable energy production goes, but it does serve to highlight the negative sides of green energy. Particularly if one extrapolates the impact of this initiative to cover the total number of similar projects that would be required to completely de-carbonise our economy.

We have written a Blog post on this topic which explains our thoughts in some more detail:

Posted by: Mark @ TalkClimateChange on 10 Dec 07

The current largest dam in operation, Itaipu at the border of Brazil and Paraguay, encountered similar problems of relocation. During the construction, entire villages, including archaeological sites and graveyards, as well as populations of animals were relocated to a nature reserve area. It has been typed as a example of how it should be done.

More information here.

Posted by: Maurits on 15 Dec 07



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