[By Peter McCawley]
To understand China, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on what is happening inside the country. Much of the current international discussion about China focuses on China’s plans to expand its overseas influence – both in Asia and beyond. But as the legendary American politician Tip O’Neill once famously quipped, “all politics is local”.
China’s leaders certainly have a lot to worry about at home. Poverty within China is still a major problem. Environmental problems have been getting worse. And the domestic social and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis have hit China hard.
The latest crisis within China is dangerous flooding along the Yangtse River, which is testing the design of the huge Three Gorges Dam. Completed in 2006, the dam is one of the world’s largest megaprojects. The structure lies about 300 kilometres west of Wuhan, the metropolis of close to 20 million people where the novel coronavirus first broke out. The threats arising from the flooding have led to the evacuation of about 40 million people.
Safety issues concerning the Three Gorges Dam reflect long-standing international debates about infrastructure, and especially dams, in developing countries. Large dam projects are almost always controversial.
On one hand, some groups – especially in wealthy countries but also in the developing world – argue that the environmental and social costs of large dam projects such as the Three Gorges Dam outweigh the benefits. On the other hand, pro-development organisations in lower-income countries point to advantages that dams bring for farmers through expanded irrigation and for the nation through increases in electricity supplies.
There was a major effort to resolve these vexed arguments when the World Commission on Dams was established in 1997. The Commission, reporting in 2000, concluded that across the world, large dams had made an important contribution to human development. Yet the conclusion was clear:
In too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits.
These difficult issues also were debated in China when the Three Gorges Dam was being built. Various local groups opposed the construction of the dam. However, construction began in late 1994 and was completed 12 years later. Millions of people were displaced when an area stretching around 600 kilometres was submerged. Today, after several upgrades, the dam has 32 main turbines, with a generating capacity of over 22,000 megawatts, more than five times the size of the generating capacity of the Snowy Mountains Scheme in southern New South Wales.
Increases in the supply of power of this kind are certainly needed in China. Electricity consumption per person in 2014 was just over 3900 kilowatt-hours per year, compared to nearly 13,000 kilowatt-hours in the US. China still lags a long way behind most Western countries in providing basic serves such as electricity across the nation.
But sustained torrential rains have caused extensive flooding in central China in recent weeks. Nightmare memories have been revived of 1998, when severe floods left more than 4000 people dead and caused extensive economic damage. Thousands of People’s Liberation Army soldiers have been sent to the Yangtse River basin to provide emergency services to build dykes, enforce embankments and dig channels to release water.
In response to the build-up of floodwaters upstream, authorities have been discharging large amounts of water from the dam. The swell of water caused by upstream flooding reached 55,000 cubic meters per second late last week, exceeding the official warning level of 50,000 cubic meters. The emergency discharges have inevitably exacerbated flooding in areas downstream from the dam.
Massive flooding along the Yangtze is nothing new for China. In 1931, more than 3 million people died during a huge flood in one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century. Nevertheless, the current situation is the first major test that the Three Gorges Dam has been put to.
There is no reason to think that the structure of the dam itself is under threat. Indeed, the dam was designed to help cope with floods along the Yangtze. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the Chinese government is monitoring the situation nervously, hoping that the emergency will soon pass.
The Three Gorges Dam has been a major showcase project for China. China’s proud reputation as a global supplier of high-quality infrastructure is now at stake, as the reliability of the Three Gorges Dam is being put to the test.
Peter McCawley is a Visiting Fellow in the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics at the ANU. He has been an Executive Director at the ADB, led various ADF replenishment round negotiations, and is a former Dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute (2003-2007).
A massive fire broke out at the Port of Beirut on Thursday, incinerating a warehouse full of tires and oil within the port’s free zone. The same area was heavily damaged in the ammonium nitrate explosion that leveled the central port area and the adjacent waterfront on August 4. According to Lebanon’s civil defense agency, […]
Over the course of the past five days, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority arranged a medical intervention for an injured aboard a freighter in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday evening, the Spliethoff tweendecker Dolfijngracht called for assistance while under way about 1,000 nauical miles off the coast of Western Australia. A crewmember had sustained serious […]
The naval forces of the US and Bahrain recently staged a joint force training exercise which showcased the interoperability between coalition warships operating I the Arabian Gulf. Coalition Task Force Sentinel executed combined exercise Sentinel Shield supporting Sentry and Sentinel patrols in the coalition’s area of operations. The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones and […]
The U-Freight Group (UFL), with its considerable involvement in eCommerce logistics, says that the latest statistics showing that global e-commerce sales hit $25.6 trillion in 2018 are a further vindication of its decision to enter this sector of the international freight market several years ago. The latest available estimates, up 8% from 2017, were recently […]
DSV Belgium has solid experience in the transport of pharmaceutical products for different customers. With a pharma hub based at Brussels Airport a lot of experience and know-how has been built up over the years. Last weekend, the forwarder handled one hundred million mouth masks, an important milestone for its Belgian organisation that has put […]
The UK government’s new post-Brexit tariff regime will result in both winners and losers. The new regime is set to replace the European Union’s Common External Tariff from the end of the Brexit Transition Period on December 31, 2020. The UK’s commitment to the ongoing Brexit process and ending the UK’s transition from EU membership […]
With close to 100 daily cargo flights operated to a destination network spanning more than 65 cities across six continents, Emirates SkyCargo is delivering essential supplies and commodities to people around the world. The air cargo carrier is currently operating 11 Boeing 777 freighter aircraft, each with a capacity to transport about 100 tonnes of […]
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a Marine Accident Brief about an accident that occurred on April 15, 2019, involving the towing vessel DeJeanne Maria which struck the end of a submerged dredge pipeline while pushing two spud barges to the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on the Mississippi River in Pass […]
Astral Aviation has increased its intra-African network with cargo freighters during the pandemic. While there has been a reduction in capacity to, from, and within Africa, which has been caused by a stoppage of passenger flights and limited frequencies on freighter aircraft, Astral Aviation continues to operate cargo freighters from its Nairobi hub to 13 destinations […]
Best known as a leading passenger airport serving Germany’s most populated federal state North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf has become transformed into a vital distribution point, during the COVID 19 pandemic, for medical equipment and other life-saving goods, mostly from China. Gerton Hulsman, managing director of cargo operations, reports that the handling teams are working hard to […]
Global commercial aviation charter company Albion Aviation Group is reporting that it is seeing a considerable uptake in its professional cargo broker training courses from the current global pandemic crisis and surge in charter demand. “We have completed a number webinar courses for a whole of host of companies, looking to manage their own cargo […]
Operators can continue to use pilots and other crew members who have unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak in support of essential operations. Additionally, this Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) provides regulatory relief to certain persons and pilot schools unable to meet duration and […]
Emirates SkyCargo has expanded its weekly scheduled cargo flight operations to cover 75 destinations across six continents. Through its wider reach, Emirates SkyCargo is able to transport essential commodities and other urgently needed cargo more rapidly across the world, allowing exporters and importers across markets to benefit from direct access to widebody cargo capacity. Some […]
Callan Marine is serving as the prime contractor to the Texas Department of Transportation for a maintenance dredging project located at the Bolivar Ferry Terminal, in Galveston, Texas. Work began in May and is estimated to be complete in late July 2020. The project consists of the removal of 600,000 cubic yards of material and […]
Network Airline Management and TAAG Angola Airlines are pleased to announce the renewal of their long-term freighter aircraft contract by an additional 12 months, sealing an ongoing partnership for the foreseeable future. Operating a regular weekly scheduled service from Liege, Belgium, to the capital of Angola, Luanda, Network Airline Management provides a Boeing 747-400F aircraft […]
Qatar Airways Cargo transported 56 SkyCell containers with vaccines from one of the largest vaccine manufacturers worldwide on its scheduled freighter and belly-hold cargo flights for its customer, CEVA Logistics. The 54-tonne shipment consisting of pneumococcal and varicella vaccines were flown from Brussels to Mumbai via the carrier’s hub in Doha on two separate flights. […]