Cost/Benefit Analysis:Three Gorges Dam


This lesson printed from:


China beachWithin the next seven years, life along the Yangtze River in China will change. Millions of people will be displaced. Ancient artifacts will disappear and the environment will be altered forever. At the same time, however the Chinese will increase their capacity to produce electrical power in the area, and they will gain new ability to control damaging floods. Also, some say air quality will be improved with the increased use of electrical power. Is this new project an appropriate one for the Chinese to undertake? What are the costs and benefits of this new dam and who is affected by the decision made?


You will research this issue online and then do a cost/benefit analysis of the project. You will answer the following questions:

  1. Why is this dam being built?
  2. How will this dam affect (the social aspects of) China's people and communities?
  3. What effects will this dam have on the environment of China?
    • Effects from reduced flooding along the river
    • Effects from less farmland in food production
    • Effects from increased electricity production
  4. What will be the economic effects of this dam?
    • What are the construction costs of this dam?
    • How is this project being funded?
    • In what ways will the economy be affected by this project?
    • Will new jobs be created and maintained?
  5. What are the cultural effects of this dam?
    • What types of sites or artifacts will be lost?
    • What is being done to preserve significant artifacts?
    • Why is it important to preserve the past? dam

You will then use this information to do a cost/benefit analysis of the project within their groups, utilizing a "Jigsaw" approach.


In groups of four, you will work to research and evaluate this project. You will assume one of the four roles listed below. Select your role; then read the information about your role in this activity and the perspective you will bring to your group's preliminary decision.



You should now return to your original group to share what you have learned. You will need to listen to differing points of view about this project and then discuss/decide how you as a group would vote on this project if you could. Please use the following process:

  1. Take turns sharing what you have learned. Briefly describe your roles and points of view, then share the questions/answers you researched.
  2. Work together to fill out the Group Report Sheet.
  3. Within the small group, vote on the merits of this project. Try to reach a consensus, but use majority rule if you must.
  4. Select a reporter who will share this information with the rest of the class at the appropriate time.


Once the activity is complete; you are ready to have a class discussion

  1. Vote on this project--in class and online

    Take Survey

  2. Use the demographic information presented to compare your vote with the nationwide survey information.
  3. Now discuss why you voted the way you did
    • What were the benefits of this project?
    • What were the costs of this project?
  4. How persuasive were the arguments from the differing perspectives?
  5. What were the weak points from each role's viewpoint?
  6. What caused you to vote the way you did? Which one group or issue became more important to you, causing you to give it more "weight" in your decision. Why or how was it more important?
  7. How should decisions like this be made?
  8. How was this decision in China actually made?