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The History of the Three Gorges Dam

Tan Zi Ling Great plans are afoot:

A bridge will fly to span the north and south,

Turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare;

Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west

To hold back Wushan's clouds and rain

Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges.

The mountain goddess if she is still there

Will marvel at a world so changed. –Mao Zedong poem “Swimming”1956

Spanning across the Yangtze River near the town of Sandouping in China is the world’s largest power station, the Three Gorges Dam. This dam’s total electric generating capacity is 22,500 Megawatts. It is seen as a huge success in the production of green energy.

Three Gorges Dam

The Early Stages

The Three Gorges DamIn 1919 Sun Yat-sen came up with the idea of building the Three Gorges Dam, he wrote that a dam built downstream of the Three Gorges was possible of producing 22 gigawatt of power. It wasn’t until 1932 that preliminary work was begun.

Japanese military forces took over China and in 1939 began to design their own dam, called the Otani plan, which they began because they believed they were going to own China.

1944 rolled around and John L. Savage a United States Bureau of Reclamation engineer wrote a proposal called the ‘Yangtze River Project.’ About 54 Chinese engineers travelled to the United States for training. Due to civil unrest the plans were halted again but a new idea came about to include a mechanism for moving ships.

In 1954 from June to September the Yangtze River flooded again, and again, killing an estimated 33,000. After these horrific floods more pressure to build the Gezhouba Dam and the Three Gorges Dam arose.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the plan for the dam cam around again. In 1992 the National People’s Congress finally approved the dam with 1,767 people for it. Only 177 voted against the building of the dam. It began construction on the 14th of December 1994 with the intention of it being fully operational in 2009. It is still under construction today, with only the ship lift under construction (it is projected to be completed by 2014.) The dam began generating power in 2006 and is currently working at full capacity.

How it Works

The Three Gorges dam is 7,661 feet (2,335 miles) long and reaches 607 feet high above sea level. It is made out of concrete and steal. It is an impressive site to see and shows a fantastic accomplishment by the Chinese government.

Over 80 thousand sticks of dynamite were used 12 months after construction of the dam began in 1994. In 10 years the giant wall of the dam was built. Engineers worked nonstop from the day it started till the day it stopped. There was someone at the site working 24 hours a day.

The dam use 32 generators, 30 700 MW units and two 50 MW. Water flows through spiral casing surrounding the guide vane that direct water towards runner blades that spin at 75 revolutions per minute. This drives a vertical shaft that is attached to a gigantic electromagnetic generator. The Three Gorge dam produces enough energy to light up Boston, New York City, and Washington DC combined that covers 10% of China’s energy use.

The Benefits

China wishes to reduce their carbon footprint so they built the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It only produces 10% of the energy they require, but is a step in the right direction. With the completion of the dam green house gases from China have been reduced.

The dam has significantly reduced the potential for flooding from the Yangtze River that has destroyed homes, villages, and taken thousands of lives.

The Three Gorge Dam also increases shipping down the Yangtze River, which has been used for hundreds of years as a trade route for vessels. In 2014 a ship lift will be finished that works as an elevator that can lift up to 11,500 tons. This will cut transportation time of vessels of 3-4 hours to 30 to 40 minutes.

The Costs

The 370-mile reservoir created by the dam has flooded and destroyed at least 1,300 archaeological sites. Relics were moved to higher ground as quickly as they were found. Some of the historical artifacts because of the location, size, and design could not be saved.

The Dam has altered the way the Three Gorges looked. It also serves as an environmental impact to the way life worked for the ecosystem of the Yangtze River.

Millions of people the Chinese government has had to relocate due to the reservoir of the dam. Entire cities have been lost, though some were already overpopulated and the cities were in horrible condition.

Since the Three Gorge dam has been complete flooding has gone down but a new problem has arisen, landslides.

Visiting the Dam

The Three Gorge dam is one of the most amazing features in China to see. It is one of the top 10 attractions, and goes hand-in-hand with a tour down the Yangtze River. To see the dam it is best to take a cruise that will lead right to its front entrance.

Some cruises or small ships will give the visitor an option to get out of the boat and tour the actual dam. A small elevator will take tourists to the top of the dam to view the amazing view of the Yangtze River from on top. This includes a marvelous view of the Three Gorges.

Most visitors include a trip through the sophisticated ship lock mechanism, which allows ships to travel through the dam. This gives visitors an inside look at how the dam works.

The Three Gorges Dam is a miraculous craftsmanship of Chinese engineering. There are many contradictory issues with the dam, but there is no denying its historical significance.

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