Saturday, June 14, 2003

Perhaps I spoke to soon

Previously, I posted about the need for a new map of China. I wrote that the Three Gorges Dam would create a massive new lake and change the physical geography of the nation.

Then again, maybe it won’t.

The Gweilo Diaries links to a story in the Guardian about massive cracks that are starting to show in the dam. Some 80 cracks up to 10 meters (I have no idea how long that is) long have appeared. Even though extensive time and money has been spent trying to repair cracks that became evident last year those repaired cracks keep returning.

For my money the best paragraph in the whole article is right at the end…
Critics acknowledge that cracks are not unknown in newly built big dams, but they fear that corners may have been cut in order to achieve the arbitrary deadlines laid down by Beijing for political reasons.
This is the understatement of the century. I am not an engineer but I know enough of them to know that arbitrary deadlines are never a good idea when dealing with a massive project. Add to that the added features of arbitrary deadlines set for political reasons by a communist government and you are just courting disaster.

I rather hoped that SARS would be the beginning of the end for the communist rulers of China. However, that (so far) does not look to be the case. Now I wonder if the tipping point will be the horror of the largest dam in the world failing and killing tens of thousands after it was built a great economic and human cost.

No matter how much I want China to some day soon be free of the yolk of communism I really hope that it does not take a massive man made/natural disaster like the failure of the Three Gorges Dam (and the ensuing catastrophic floods) to accomplish that goal.


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