NASA’s animation of China’s Three Gorges Dam construction over the years.
The world’s largest dam was created to generate more energy for China’s ever-expanding economy and to increase the interior economic development by increasing the navigability of the river. The dam also can control downstream flooding and protect important industrial centers such as Shanghai. This ambitious hydroelectric dam produces the same amount of energy as 18 nuclear power plants. This dam also displaced over 1 million people as the reservoir flooded properties upstream. The Three Gorges Dam prevents the nutrient-rich sediments from being deposited downstream; this heightens Chinese farmers’ need for fertilizers, this has led to drought downstream and limits residents’ water access. The dam also disrupted the local ecology (part of the reason the Yangtze River Dolphin went extinct), preventing fish to migrate to upstream breeding grounds.
For good and ill, the dam has profoundly modified the environment and this video animation from NASA is a powerful demonstration of the changes.