Yangtze River

Tour Day Eleven: Tuesday, May 1, 2001

San Dou Ping
Three Gorges Dam Site

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Model Of The Project

The dam is upper, center. An elevator for lifting small ships is to the right of the dam. The twin five-stage locks are some distance to the right of the elevator.

Here are a few of the facts we have learned about the dam and its potential:
Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the leader who wrested the country from the last emperor, suggested that such a dam be built, but then the technology was not existent. It was suggested again in 1954, and the studies began.

The purpose of the dam is for flood control and electrical power generation. It is expected to save the country billions of yuan in flood damages. They intend to use it as a clean, renewable energy source. They expect that the dam will produce 85 billion Kilowatt hours of electricity per year!

China's economy is growing rapidly, and it has some of the most polluted air in the world. It is second to the United States in green-house gas emissions. That is because most of their power is produced with coal-burning generators. They expect the dam to produce 10% of the country's future electrical needs. That will be the equivalent of the electricity produced any of the following power sources:

  • 50 million tons of coal
  • 15 nuclear power plants
  • 25 million tons of crude oil

The artist's rendering of the project was added for clarity.

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A Very Controversial Project

Every film and every Web site we've seen on the subject cites many reasons why this project is expected to fail. Among the criticisms is that millions in funds earmarked to help the people with relocation from the areas to be flooded by the reservoir have been embezzled! Another is that this is an earthquake-prone area, and the dam is likely to be unstable. (However, we were told that it is not an earthquake-prone area.) Hundreds of millions of people living down stream will be in danger. And the list goes on. See the links page for some Web sites that discuss this topic.

At this point in time, it seems unlikely that the project will be stopped. We can only wish them the best. And hope and pray that the project is successful. The people of Southern China need the power it will provide, and they need the flood control desperately.

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Page last updated June 13, 2001.