Environmental Science, Policy & Engineering Program (ESPE) - Modern Languages Department


ENS222 - MLT209

FALL 2022



Professor Ashraf Ghaly, Ph.D., P.E. Megan Ferry, Ph.D.
Department Engineering Modern Languages
Office Olin 102D Karp Hall
Tel., email 518-388-6515, ghalya@union.edu 518-388-7104, ferrym@union.edu
WWW Homepage Professor Ghaly's Homepage

Professor Ferry's Homepage

Course on WWW: china.union.edu

Lectures: TTH 10:55 AM - 12:40 PM, Bailey-106.



ENS222 - MLT209 The New Wall of China. An interdisciplinary overview of the cultural, historical, and artistic attributes of a region in China whose geo-political landscape has been dramatically impacted by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam (TGD). In providing a context to the construction, students will be introduced to the intricate connections between all the above factors and engineering, technology, and the environment. GenEd: CHF/ETS/SPE; WAC.



Assignments 20%
Participation 10%
Mid-Term Test (6th week) 25%
Project "To Dam or Not To Dam" 20%
Final Examination 25%


90+ = A 85+ = A- 80+ = B+ 75+ = B 70+ = B- 65+ = C+ 60+ = C 55+ = C- 50+ = D





China is presently witnessing a high rate of economic growth and rapid development. One of the mega projects recently constructed is the Three Gorges Dam (TGD). By any measure, the size of this dam earns it the title of the largest hydraulic structure ever undertaken. With a project of this magnitude, the lives of millions of people are impacted. This course will explore in detail the engineering, technical, economical, environmental, social, and cultural aspects of dam building in general, and the building of the Three Gorges Dam in particular.



A list of books on the subjects covered in this course is attached on the last page. However, extensive handouts detailing the main points of different subjects will also be used as an integral teaching tool. Furthermore, the book referenced below is required reading in this course.



Engineering and Environmental Themes


Cultural and Social Themes



1. Political, social, and cultural aspects of dam construction. [due on fourth week]
2. Environmental, ecological, and economical impact of dams. [due on seventh week]

Each assignment will consist of 3-5 page paper on the given theme. The paper may include pictures, graphs, charts, or tables, but it must contain at least 3 pages of text, Times font (double-spaced type with one inch margin on all sides). Any standard method of citing works/references is acceptable (footnotes or standalone section). In addition to the quality of writing on the assignment theme, grading criteria will emphasize grammar, style, organization, and content. This course is worth a WAC credit, therefore all work should be a true reflection of the writing credit to be earned.



Decision making: considering all positive and negative aspects of dams, TO DAM OR NOT TO DAM becomes the ultimate question that requires an answer. The project in this course, called To Dam or Not To Dam, asks each student to pick a dam of interest and write a research paper on that subject. Students may wish to select a dam (constructed, under construction, or being considered for construction) and discuss the positive and negative aspects of this dam, and illustrate, in their opinion, why this dam should or should not be/have been constructed. Each student will write his/her paper on a different dam and if the same dam is selected by more than one student, only the first that made the selection will be able to use the selcted subject and other students will have to choose different ones. The paper should be equivalent to at least 10 pages of text (Word document, 12 point Times font, double-spaced type with one inch margin on all sides). Any standard method of citing works/references is acceptable (footnotes or standalone section). In addition to the 10 pages of text, students may add pictures, tables, graphs, charts, figures, and any other supplementing materials as they see fit. The total length of the paper, however, may not exceed 20 pages.

The final electronic paper of the project is due in the ninth week of the term as will be announced in class. Students will be required to make a class presentation in the tenth week of the course. The grade in this paper will be assigned based on the quality of writing and organization of the paper, relevance of content to the subject under consideration, understanding, organization, clarity of presentation, and demonstration of ability to address questions with comprehension.



Lecture Topic

Enduring Questions

Assigned Reading

History of Dams


  • Website exercise

Science, Nature, Humans
- Intro to Chinese geography/culture/people

  • There are different worldviews/perspectives and this shapes how we see ourselves in this world/community
  • Dong (Ebrey, tr) "Heaven, Earth, Man"
  • McCully, Ch. 1 "Power and Water"

WEEK 3 (1)
Modern Development/How to Read a Dam
 - 20th century science as knowledge

  • The Western scientific worldview comes to dominate globally in the 20th century; this in turn reshapes how a culture sees a problem and seeks to remedy it
  • Kirby, “Engineering China”
  • China’s Response to the West,” Pt. 2
  • Flood Control Acts 1939

WEEK 3 (2)
Political Legacies/Promoting Dam Construction
 - Development as upward social mobility
 - Colonialism’s legacy
 - Industrialization, social welfare

  • State leaders apply scientific development to advance their countries, which may mean conflict with their people or radical changes to the environment; what are the assumptions of development
  • Shapiro, “Mao’s War Against Nature” (Ch. 1)
  • Ma Jun, “Water Crisis” (Ch. 2)
  • Speeches by Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao

Who Benefits? Cities and Advertising Media
 - Who is behind building the TGD
 - Media analysis

  • Not everyone benefits from dam construction, so it is important to examine who has the authority to decide who benefits and what the underlying values are for development
  • Manufactured Landscapes (2006)
  • Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing promotional videos
  • McCully, Silenced Rivers, (Ch. 9 “Industry Applies, Man Conforms: The Political Economy of Damming”)

 - Oppositional Voices

  • Who is affected negatively by dam construction, that is, who does not benefit; what assumptions in dam construction are being overlooked
  • Drowned Out (2006)
  • Roy “The Greater Common Good”
  • Dai Qing (excerpts)
  • Khagram, Dams and Development (Ch. 6  ““Dams, Democracy and Development in Transnational Perspective”)

 - Mass mobilization of population

  • How are individual lives affected by dam construction and economic development policies of the state
  • Still Life  (2006)
  • Up the Yangtze (2008)
  • Leslie, Deep Water (Ch 6. Pasadena (Zambia))

WEEK 8 (1)
Origins of Big Dam Construction/CBA 
 - Development assumptions

  • Where did the idea for dam construction as development model originate; what were the underlying assumptions in this as model; what relationship do waterway control and economic development have and how has this relationship informed dam construction as well as other mega projects
  • Driesen, “Is Cost-Benefit Analysis Neutral?”

WEEK 8 (2)
Dam Construction as Aid Model

  • Economic development models that worked or are no longer working in Northern countries are now being exported to Southern states; what are the consequences; who benefits
  • Usher, Dams as Aid (Ch. 6)
  • McCully, Silenced Rivers, (Ch. 4, 5 “When Things Fall Apart”; “Empty Promises”)


Participation Rubric (4pt scale)
4.0 Strong preparation, frequent and substantive contribution to class discussion.
3.5 Good preparation, frequent contribution to class discussion.
3.0 Good preparation, frequent contribution to class discussion but not always articulate or related to subject matter.
2.5 Some preparation, needs prompting from instructors for contribution.
2.0 Weak preparation, does not communicate unless called upon by instructor.
1.5 Barely any preparation, communication minimal.
1.0 Attended class, but did not participate.
0.0 Absent.

Virtual Visit to China Scenic and historical sites, Residence and Garden, Cityscape, Folk Custom and Lifestyle, Still life and Concepts, Industry and Agriculture, Nature and Landscape.
Old and Modern Shanghai Click any image to see how that location changed over time.

Union College

Professor Ghaly's Homepage | Professor Ferry's Homepage