This page ARCHIVED - August 2008
Lots of recent articles have given the latest progress on the 3 Gorges project. Try a search on the news archives. New stories appear all the time.
Dam wall completed: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/5000092.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/5051504.stm & barrier demolished with explosives
The demolition of entire cities is well under way, and millions of people have already been moved away from their homes. The Yangtze river is to be harnessed to produce HEP, and the flooding and danger of the river with its treacherous floods and currents will (allegedly) be removed. There will be a 700km long reservoir behind the main dam, which is almost 200m high. There have been some suggestions that erosion of the fine soils in the area will lead to rapid sedimentation of the reservoir which will reduce the effectiveness of the dam, and the lifespan of the project. This has been the case with previous dams on similar rivers due to the very fine nature of the sediment load.
DETAILS ON THE SCHEME
The 3 Gorges are:
The area is also famous for karst limestone scenery, notably a huge funnel called 'The Heavenly Pit'.
At the eastern mouth of the gorges is Yichang City.
The Chinese have admitted that the dam project, which will displace a million people has been affected by corruption, and is likely to cause environmental damage.
There are problems finding appropriate places for the displaced communities. The places which they are proposing were probably not used for settlement before for very good reasons. After all, if they were preferable to the current sites, they would have been settled! Some of them are barren, and are too remote to attract industries. They also said that there is likely to be soil erosion as some of the areas which are developed are too steep. A dam failure could threaten the lives of tens of millions of people.
A recent (April 2003) article in the Guardian suggested that the scheme has led to a big reduction in the numbers of species such as the Yangtze alligator, Baiji dolphins and Chinese sturgeon. The Baiji dolphins for example are thought to be extinct, having numbered 400 about 20 years ago. About 23.5 billion tonnes of sewage and industrial waste were dumped into the Yangtze in 2001. Stretches of the river are too filthy for human use. Critics say the 3 Gorges Dam could end up as the world's largest cesspool.
China also produces large volumes of greenhouse gases, as reported elsewhere on the site. More than 70% of China's energy production is from burning coal.
Some pros and cons of the scheme
Will prevent flooding downstream which is a regular occurrence.
Will generate plentiful HEP for the whole of Central China's major cities.
Navigation will be easier for boats in the Gorges - at the moment, levels fluctuate and there are dangerous areas for shipping in the gorges.
It was the idea of Mao Zedong, who is still revered.
Most of the flooding downstream is caused by tributaries which join downstream, so they will still continue.
Millions will die if a dam collapses.
More than a million people are being displaced by the flooding.
Smaller power schemes and dams would be more effective for local communities. Big isn't necessarily better.
The sluice gates were finally closed in June 2003, and the huge reservoir started to fill, and the water level started to rise. An article in the Guardian suggested that there were worries over the scheme already, due to the risk of seismic activity in the area.
3 GORGES FACTS
The Three Gorges Dam will create a reservoir 375 miles long, forming the world's largest hydroelectric project.
Water level will be raised by 65 metres in the first part of the scheme. Second stage will raise it a further 40 metres
More than 600 000 local residents will be relocated. At least 500 000 still have to be moved.
26 HEP generating units will be online by 2009
More than 10 000 tonnes of toxic waste have been removed from the reservoir site.
Critics say that the dam will disrupt the lives of over 1 million people - between 1.2 and 1.9 million people will be resettled
A dam collapse would be catastrophic
The electricity generated will be equal to the Itaipu Dam project in Brazil - another huge dam project.
Construction should continue until at least 2008
Another article published a few days later continued to talk about the cracks appearing in the 3 Gorges Dam. These had been noticed some time ago, but now that the reservoir is slowly filling up behind the dam this becomes more serious. The reservoir is now 350 miles long, with water up to 135 metres deep. 700 000 people have been displaced already. Many of the farmers who have been moved have been given insufficient land to make a living. There was also mention made of the need to consider the dam as a terrorist target.
If you want to read the official Chinese line on the 3 GORGES project, with all the latest on the progress of the scheme, try THIS SITE which is the Official Chinese Embassy (in the USA) site. It has all the latest news. In January 2004 for example, it said that the 3 Gorges was set to generate 30 billion Kw hours of electricity in 2004! The investment was apparently paying off, and people were likely to be better off. It is the WORLD'S LARGEST POWER PROJECT. The scheme is ongoing and there are several years to go before the scheme is finished. It's part of the transformation of China which I shall try to keep an eye on over the coming year. Check out the CHINA page for more.
The INTERNATIONAL RIVERS NETWORK has a great page on the THREE GORGES DAM. This includes a number of useful resources, including a 32 page PDF document which looks at the resettlement of people as a result of the building of the dams. The cover of the booklet is the Chinese character "chai" which apparently means "to tear down" or "demolish", and this is painted on all buildings in the submergence zone of the new reservoirs.
If you're planning to do a lesson (or more) on the project, then head over to the page produced by BRITISH GEOMORPHOLOGICAL RESEARCH GROUP, where there is a selection of resources produced by Dave Simm. Recommended.
An excellent resource passed to me recently by colleague Mr. Douglass: an excellent softback book: "New Three Gorges" produced by China Photographic Publishing House. It has English, German and Chinese text captions to the images, based around a rather nice map showing a Tourist sketch map of the Three Gorges. It features lots of aerial shots of the gorges and other tourist attractions, and finishes with a group of photos showing the Gorges as they used to be before the project. Its ISBN number is 7 80007 723 3
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