The Story

For some, China's Three Gorges Dam is an awe-inspiring symbol of Chinese progress, a glittering wonder that can be seen from space, and a magic bullet solving China's spiralling need for power. For others, it is the symbol of all that has gone awry in man's meddling with nature, an engine not of growth, but of out-of-control pollution, environmental degradation, and human misery.

In a world where almost one third of the air pollution of the West Coast can come from China, this dam has global impact. This documentary film tells that story.

In China's Three Gorges Dam: A Flood of Controversy the Yangtze River itself speaks. Through the voice of the river this documentary film explores the increasing conflict between China's economic and social development, and the limits of its natural resources and energy.

Begun as an attempt to control the massive flooding in China that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the 20th century alone, the Three Gorges Dam grew into a mission to harness the forces of the might Yangtze River for navigation, power, and pollution control.

But the Three Gorges Dam was born at a terrible price. The Chinese are sacrificing over 4 million of their people, 1.4 million moved from the banks of the Yangtze River, and 3 million who are now being moved because of the landslides and instability of the land which the weight of the massive reservoir has produced. Hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage and raw sewage spew into the reservoir and are trapped. Lost forever are hundreds of remarkable archaeological sites. And extinction will most likely be the fate of several Yangtze River wildlife species.

It is the age-old story: what price progress? But today, the stakes are much higher, not only for China but for the whole planet.

China's Three Gorges Dam: A Flood of Controversy tells the history of the dam, how it began, how it was built, what it does, and what it does not do. All sides of the story are reported, from the desperate need for non-polluting power generation to the pollution disaster the dam itself has become. From economic stimulus for new jobs and industry to economic destruction for the people who lived beside the Yangtze.

China's Three Gorges Dam: A Flood of Controversy is both a timeless story and one that is timely. With the Olympics coming to China, now is the moment to shine a light on China's struggle to come to terms with the 21st century.

China's air pollution can circle the entire world in three weeks. Photo courtesy of GeoEye

Adair Simon on location.