explore: Yangtze
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explore: Yangtze
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One mile long and 600 feet high, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is an enormous feat of engineering, with huge controversies to match. Completed in 2008, the dam created a vast reservoir extending 370 miles. It provides drinking water and electricity, but it has also displaced some two million people and caused widespread flooding, destroying rural villages and cultural treasures. In this film, we meet some of the people whose lives have been affected.

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Segment 1

I love this river. The Yangtze is the mother river of the Chinese people. There's been a great change. Before, the river was very narrow and turbulent. Now the river is much wider, more calm, and easier to navigate.
Technology versus nature. China is trying to shift away from being a coal-burning society, into using hydropower, a more efficient, cleaner source of energy.
explore CHINA
I'm right now in Fengdu with Yang Xin, photographer and environmentalist. Yang Xin has taken over 50,000 photographs of the Yangtze River, and he's turned it into an environmental cause here in China. I've talked to many environmentalists on this trip. And I seem to get a common theme that China needs to progress, but at what point is this going to become a problem?
YANG XIN [Founder, Green River Foundation]
China has already reached a crucial juncture, not in five or 10 years, but now. For example, the Yangtze River, if you look at the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the river, the more developed an area is, the more polluted the water becomes. Every year, 28 billion tons of polluted water are washed down the Yangtze River. Here in Sichuan Province, at the upper stream of the river, you can still see some clear water. But downstream at the middle and lower parts of the river, you can hardly see any clear water. The Yangtze is the longest river in Asia, supporting a population of 400 million. Now, we are building a channel from the Yangtze River to Beijing. This will alleviate the serious water shortage in the northern part of the country. Once that project is completed, the Yangtze water will reach 700 million people.
One of the things that makes the Three Gorges Dam project so controversial is that over a million people have been removed. We're in the historic town of Fengdu. Or what -- I should say -- is left of it, for the rubble you see was once a city. But it's now all been torn down. These towns scatter the Yangtze River. Old towns, being replaced with new ones. But talking to people what I've learned is that new people, the younger people, are actually not so against the Three Gorges project. They're looking forward to living in modern cities. It's the old people, who are losing their way and their culture, that are concerned. We're now entering Lock One of the Three Gorges Dam. The Three Gorges Dam is a modern-day version of the Great Wall of China. Built with over 40,000 employees, it is the largest project since the Great Wall of China. And, to many, this Three Gorges Dam is a symbol of China's reemergence as a world power. What can you say, but "I'm in awe." What a technological marvel.
We're in Shen Nong Stream, a tributary to the Yangtze. An interesting point that the captain told me was that before the Three Gorges Dam, all this beauty was inaccessible. But because of the dam this water rose from one meter to 40 meters, allowing people to come up here and enjoy all this beauty. These are some of the gentlemen who've been moved from their old, rural farms to the new cities that you've seen. Hopefully, when we take a pause, we'll be able to ask them how they feel about the move. How do you feel about the move, from the old place to the new homes?
The dam is great. Before, there was no electricity here or it was very spotty. Now there is electricity all the time.
I like my new house. My new house is much better, it's much more comfortable. The water level is higher now, so there are more economic opportunities.
Are there any drawbacks to the move?
Those people who had money before are still able to succeed. However, those people who didn't have much money, like many older people, were forced to move to a smaller piece of land, so their situation has worsened.
The sturgeon here, a 140-million-year-old species, almost went extinct. To the Chinese, what the panda is to the woods, they [sturgeon] are to the sea, so they're very sacred. One of the drawbacks of the Three Gorges Dam project has been just the environmental protection of animals. The migratory path of the sturgeon has been cut off. The sturgeon can no longer come in from the ocean and go up the Yangtze to reproduce, so the Chinese government is trying to artificially inseminate the sturgeon and bring back the population. But the sturgeon is genetically modified; this is not natural reproduction. So how this will affect it, we don't know. How they will react out at sea is another big issue. The results are still to be determined. Is the government doing a good job in handling the environmental situation, yes or no?
Good, but not enough.
Not good.
I think we should not answer the question so simply. Our country is a developing country. Our economy is developing. We must, on one hand, develop our economy. On the other hand, we should solve the environmental problems. Though there are many problems now, but our government is trying their best to solve the problems.