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Three Gorges Dam China

The Three Gorges Dam China spans the Yangtze River (third longest in the world) at Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei province, China. Construction began in 1995. The Three Gorges Dam China, will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world when completed in 2009.

The reservoir began filling on June 1, 2003, and will occupy the present position of the scenic Three Gorges area, between the cities of Yichang, Hubei; and Fuling, Chongqing.

As with many dams under construction, there is controversy over the rights and wrongs of this project. Proponents point to the economic benefits from flood control and hydroelectric power.

Opposition is mainly due to concerns about the future of the 1.9 million people who will be displaced by the rising waters; the loss of many valuable archaeological and cultural sites; as well as the effects on the environment.

Location: Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei province.

Height: 181 meters.

Expected investment: 203.9 billion renminbi (US$24.65 billion) could be up to US$75 billion.

Number of migrants: 1.13 million - could be more.

Installed power generation capacity: 19.2 Gigawatts.

Functions: Flood control, power generation, improved navigation of the river.

The Proposal - Three Gorges Dam China project

Sun Yat-sen first proposed building a dam on the Yangtze River in 1919 for power generation purposes, but the idea was shelved due to unfavorable political and economic conditions.

Major floods resurrected the idea and the government adopted it in 1954 for flood control.

Vice Minister of Electric Power Li Rui initially argued that the three Gorges Dam China, should be multipurpose, that smaller dams should be built first until China could afford such a costly project, and that construction should proceed in stages to allow time to solve technical problems, according to Chinese scholars Kenneth Lieberthal and Michel Oksenberg.

Later, Li Rui concluded that the dam should not be built at all since it would be too costly. He added that the dam would also flood many cities and fertile farmland, subject the middle and lower reaches of the river to catastrophic flooding during construction and would not contribute much to shipping.

Sichuan province officials also objected to the construction since Sichuan, located upstream, would shoulder most of the costs while downstream Hubei province would receive most of the benefits.

Lin Yishan, head of the Yangtze Valley Planning Office, which was in charge of the project, favored the dam construction, however. His optimism about resolving technical problems was further encouraged in 1958 by the favorable political climate and the support from the late chairman Mao Zedong, who wanted China to have the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.

Economic depression resulted from the Great Leap Forward and ended the preparation work in 1960.

The idea resurfaced in 1963 as part of the new policies to build a "third front" of industry in southwest China. But the Cultural Revolution erupted in 1966, and in 1969 the fear that the three Gorges Dam China, would be sabotaged by the Soviet Union, then an enemy, resulted in a construction delay.

In 1970, work was resumed on Gezhouba, a smaller dam downstream, but it soon ran into severe technical problems and cost overruns that seemed likely to plague the Three Gorges Dam China on an even larger scale.

The economic reforms introduced in 1978 underlined the need for more electric power to supply a growing industrial base, so the State Council approved the construction in 1979.

A feasibility study was conducted in 1982 to 1983 to appease the increasing number of critics, who complained that the project did not adequately address technical, social, or environmental issues. Further feasibility studies were then conducted from 1985 to 1988 by Canadian International Project Managers Yangtze Joint Venture, a consortium of five Canadian engineering firms.

Leaders from Chongqing also demanded suddenly that the three Gorges Dam China, height be raised so substantially that it would cripple the project and free them from enduring the most of the costs.

The new height and the demand for a more reliable study with the use of international standards resulted in a new feasibility study in 1986.

Ecologist Hou Xueyu was among the few who refused to sign the environmental report because it seemed to overstate the environmental benefits provided by the dam. It also failed to convey the real extent of environmental impact, and lacked adequate solutions to environmental concerns.

Environmentalists at within China and abroad began to protest more strongly. Human rights advocates criticized the resettlement plan. Archeologists objected to the submergence of a huge number of historical sites.

Many mourned the loss of some of the world's finest scenery.

Increasing numbers of engineers doubted whether the dam would actually achieve its stated purposes. Chinese journalist/engineer Dai Qing published a book of relentless critiques of the project by Chinese scientists. Yet many foreign construction companies continued to press their governments to financially support the construction in hopes of winning contracts.

The Approval - Three Gorges Dam China project

In the face of much domestic and international pressure, the State Council agreed in March 1989 to suspend the construction plans for for the Three Gorges Dam China for five years. After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, however, the government dismissed public debate on the three Gorges Dam China project, accused foreign critics of ignorance or intent to undermine the government.

Premier Li Peng crusaded for the dam and pushed it through the National People's Congress in April 1992 despite the opposition or abstention from one-third of the delegates.

Such actions were unprecedented from a body that usually rubberstamped all government proposals.

Resettlement soon began, and physical preparations started in 1994. While the government solicited technology, services, hardware and financing from abroad, leaders reserved the engineering and construction contracts for Chinese firms.

Corruption scandals have plagued the project. It was believed that contractors had won bids through inappropriate means then skimped on equipment and materials to siphon off construction funds.

Much of the project's infrastructure was not up to the required standards so Premier Zhu Rongji ordered it ripped out in 1999 after a number of high-profile accidents.

To offset construction costs, project officials had quietly changed the operating plan approved by the NPC to fill the reservoir after six years rather than 10. In response, 53 engineers and academics petitioned President Jiang Zemin twice in the first half of 2000 to delay full filling of the reservoir and relocating the local population until scientists could determine whether a higher reservoir was viable given the sedimentation problems.

The Controversial Debate - Three Gorges Dam China


Hydro-electric power is a renewable energy source that does not generate waste, although there is new evidence suggesting that dams generate carbon dioxide and substantial amounts of methane1 due to micro biotic activity in their reservoirs.

Existing wetlands also "generate carbon dioxide and substantial amounts of methane", and protecting wetlands is widely acknowledged as a good thing.

Dams by their nature alter the ecosystem and threaten some habitats while helping other habitats. The Chinese River Dolphin, for example, is on the edge of extinction and will lose habitat to the dam.

While logging in the area was required for construction, which adds to erosion, stopping the periodic uncontrolled river flooding will lessen erosion in the long run.

Local culture and natural beauty

The 600 km (370 mile) long reservoir will inundate some 1,300 archeological sites, and change the legendary beauty of the Three Gorges. Many cultural and historical relics have been, and are being moved to higher ground.


The installation of ship locks are intended to increase river shipping from 10 million to 50 million tons annually, with transportation costs cut by 30 to 37 percent. Shipping will become safer, since the gorges have historically been notoriously dangerous to navigate. Critics argue, however, that heavy siltation will clog ports such as Chongqing within a few years based on the evidence from other dam projects.

Flood control

The reservoir's 22 km?(28.9 billion cubic yard) flood storage capacity will lessen the frequency of big downstream floods from once every 10 years to once every 100 years. But critics believe that the Yangtze will add 530 million tons of silt into the reservoir on average per year and it will soon be useless in preventing floods. Increased sedimentation resulting from the three Gorges Dam China, could increase the already high flood level at Chongqing.

Probe International asserts that the dam does not address the real source of flooding, which is the loss of forest cover in the Yangtze watershed and the loss of 13,000 km of lakes (which had greatly helped to alleviate floods) due to siltation, reclamation and uncontrolled development.

As You can see, there are a lot of Pros and Cons associated with the Three Gorges Dam China project.

Whatever the case, the project is now well underway and only time will now tell us what will really happen.

I hope you have found this page interesting.

I would like to thank Wikipedia - the free Encyclopedia, for a lot of the source material.

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