Introduction to Three Gorges Dam (三峡大坝)
Built in 1994 and completed in 2009, the Three Gorges Dam is the largest water conservancy project ever undertaken by man. The Three Gorges Dam is located near Sandouping, which is in the middle of the Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges.
The Three Gorges Dam is 2,335 m long, 185 m high, 18 m wide on the top and 130 m wide at the bottom. The dam has raised the river to a level of 175 meters above sea level, creating a 600 kilometers long reservoir with storage capacity of 39.9 billion cubic meters extending from the dam site all the way to Chongqing. 570,000 acres of farmland, villages, and cities in 19 counties have been flooded, causing 1.5 million people to be relocated.
The estimate for construction of the project is 26 billion US dollars. The building of this huge dam was for the purpose of flood control, electricity, navigation, and irrigation.
History of the Three Gorges Dam
The idea for the Three Gorges Dam was first proposed by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the pioneer of the Republic of China, in 1919. In his article, entitled “A Plan to Development Industry”, Sun Yat-Sen mentions the possibility of damming the Yangtze River to help control floods and generate electricity.
In 1944, an American dam expert named J.L. Savage was invited to do field research on possible locations for the project. Two years later, the Republic of China signed a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to design the dam. More than 50 Chinese technicians were then sent to the United States to study and participate in the creation process. However, the project was shortly abandoned due to the Chinese civil war that followed World War II.
Talks of the Three Gorges Dam resurfaced in 1953 due to continuous floods that occurred on the Yangtze that year, killing over 30,000 people. One year later, the planning phase began once more, this time under the collaboration of Soviet experts. After two years of political debates over the size of the dam, the project was finally approved by the Communist Party. Unfortunately, plans for the construction were once again interrupted, this time by the disastrous political campaigns of the “Great Leap Forward” and the “Proletarian Cultural Revolution."
The market reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 emphasized the necessity to produce more electricity for economic growth. With approval from the new leader, the location of the Three Gorges Dam was then officially determined, to be located at Sandouping, a town in the Yiling District of the Yichang prefecture, in the province of Hubei. Finally, on December 14, 1994, 75-years since inception, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam finally began.
Four goals for the Three Gorges Dam Project:
1. Flood Control: The history of the Yangtze River includes many devastating floods over the centuries killing thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damages. The dam will reduce the impacts of flooding since it will have a flood control capacity of 22.15 billion cubic meters.
2. Power Generation: The use of hydroelectric turbine generators will reduce China’s dependency on coal, a hydro carbon that produces greenhouse gases. The Three Gorges Dam will produce about 84.6 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy annually.
3. Navigation: The presence of the dam, the reservoir, and the ship locks will allow large ships to travel up and downstream for the first time. Ships from Chongquing will be able to transport goods all the way to the sea at Shanghai.
4. Tourism: Since the Three Gorges Dam Project is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, it is expected to be popular among tourists visiting China. Three gorges dam tour is a must-do for Chongqing travelling.