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Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric river dam that spans the Yangtze River in Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei, China. It is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. The total electric generating capacity of the dam will reach 22,500 megawatts. Several generators are yet to be installed; the dam is not expected to become fully operational until about 2011.


As with many dams, there is a debate over costs and benefits. Although there are potential economic benefits such as flood control, enormous amount of clean hydroelectric power and navigation, there are also concerns about the relocation of people who have been or will be displaced by the rising waters; siltation that could limit the dam's useful life; loss of numerous valuable archaeological and cultural sites; and the adverse effects of increased pollution upon the regional ecosystem.


Project history

The dam was originally envisioned by Sun Yat-sen in The International Development of China in 1919. In 1932 the Nationalist government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, began preliminary work on plans for a dam in the Three Gorges. Then in 1939 the Japanese military forces occupied Yichang and surveyed the area. A design, the Otani plan, was completed for the dam in anticipation of a Japanese victory over China. In 1944 involvement from the United States began when the Bureau of Reclamation engineer J.L. Savage surveyed the area and drew up a dam proposal. Around 54 Chinese engineers were sent to the U.S. for training. Some exploration, survey, economic study, and design work was done, but the government, in the midst of the Chinese Civil War, halted work in 1947.


After the 1949 communist victory, the leader Mao Zedong supported the project, but the Gezhouba Dam project was begun first and economic problems including the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution slowed progress. In 1958, after the Hundred Flowers Campaign, some engineers who spoke out against the project were imprisoned.


During the 1980s plans were revived. Pushed through by Li Peng, the dam was approved by the National People's Congress in 1992 with a record number of abstentions and dissenting votes.[citation needed] The construction started on December 14, 1994. The dam was expected to be fully operational in 2009, but due to additional projects such as the underground power plant with 6 additional generators, and due to the complexity of the ship lift, the dam is not expected to become fully operational until about 2011.


Scale of the project

The dam wall is made of concrete and is about 2,309 metres (7,575 ft) long, and 101 metres (331 ft) high. The wall is 115 metres (377.3 ft) thick on the bottom and 40 metres (131.2 ft) thick on top. The project used 27,200,000 cubic metres (35,600,000 cu yd) of concrete, 463,000 tonnes of steel, enough to build 63 Eiffel Towers, and moved about 102,600,000 cubic metres (1.342E+8 cu yd) of earth.

When the water level is maximum at 175 metres (574 ft) over sea level (91 metres (299 ft) above river level) , the reservoir created by the Three Gorges Dam is about 660 kilometres (410 mi) in length and 1.12 kilometres (0.70 mi) in width on average, and contains 39.3 cu km (9.43 cubic miles) of water.The total surface area of the reservoir is 1045 km². The reservoir will flood a total area of 632 km² of land compared to the 1,350 km² of reservoir created by the Itaipu Dam. The Three Gorges Dam reservoir is longer than the 560 kilometres (348 mi) length of Lake Superior, but only 1.1 % of the surface area of the lake (82,400 km²) and about 1/700 of the volume of the lake (28700 cu km).

The dam will raise the water level the third time to its designed maximum water level (175 m above sea level) by the end of 2008.