The Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River
Today, China is a leading producer in hydroelectricity.
The dam is situated in Sandouping of Yichang City, Hubei Province. The USD 27.2 billion Three Gorges Project Dam is the largest water conservancy project ever built in China and in the world, with an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts. A large percentage of China's renewable energy is provided by this controversial Dam project. The Three Gorges Dam has been named among the world's top 10 renewable energy projects by the globally renowned science magazine Scientific American in July 2009
On May 20, 2006, China completed construction of the world's largest and most powerful hydro-electric project the Three Gorges Project, 3 years ahead of schedule. The construction of a dam along the Yangtze River has long been in the minds of the Chinese even before the idea was first proposed in 1919. The primary objective is for harnessing and developing the Yangtze with comprehensive benefits mainly in flood control, power generation and navigation improvement.
Historically, the population in
the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River suffered
tremendous losses in human lives and property due to the Yangtze
flooding. In 1931 alone, as a result of flooding, 333 thousand
hectares of cultivated land were stricken, 145 thousand people were
In 1998 the flood caused 4,150 lives, and damage worth USD 38
The Three Gorges Project serves multi-functions in:
China’s Three Gorges Dam helps alleviate severe flooding (July 2010) in central China.
The Three Gorges Dam on Yangtze River helped to buffer the worst floods in decades as it blocked more than 40% of upstream water from the swollen Yangtze River.
In 2010, China experienced frequent incidences of torrential rains across the country. Unusually heavy rains had caused extensive flooding, numerous lives, damaged houses and buildings, reduced crop outputs, displaced millions of people and resulted in USD billions of economic losses. The Three Gorges Dam in July helped alleviate what might have been a worse repeat of the 1998 flood which killed 4150 people in China.
It accomplished this much needed task by containing the raging water from the upper reach of Yangtze River, swollen from torrential rains, rambling down with a ferocious speed of 70,000 m3 a second. This was 20,000 m3 a second higher than the worst flood of China, the 1998 mega floods. The rains had raised the level of the Three Gorges Reservoir by 4m (13ft) overnight, just 20m below its maximum capacity. Water was then released at a safe level downstream.
Torrential rains continued and on July 28 2010, the Dam passed yet another challenge after it was able to withstand another raging water from the upper Yangtze River. Highest flow rate that hit the Dam this time was 56,000 m3 per second. Water level in the reservoir rose to 158 m, just 17 m below its maximum capacity of 175 m.
So far, floods in 2010 in China has resulted in economic losses of USD 22 billion and affected 120 million people. More than 1,000 people have died or disappeared, the highest death toll since the 1998 flooding.
About the Three Gorges Project:
(Source: Xinhuanet )
Floods of Yangtze River
Critics on the construction of the Three Gorges Project
To critics worldwide, it is a social and environmental disaster. They question whether both effects of flood control and power generation can be achieved at the same time as each requires low and high water level respectively; suggest that both could be achieved by faster, less expensive means in place of dam construction. They doubt whether the human and cultural losses are worth the project benefits. When the dam becomes operational, over a million people will have been relocated, over a thousand archeological sites will be submerged beneath the reservoir, and endangered species may be driven to extinction.
"The world's largest—had the potential of becoming one of China's biggest environmental nightmares, triggering landslides, altering entire ecosystems and causing other serious environmental problems—and, by extension, endangering the millions who live in its shadow:"
This is my opinion, but WHO am I? Nobody, so, don't take to heart if you disagree.
Harnessing Liability from Nature into Assets for Man (The TGP way)
First of all, we have to really look at the Yangtze River with which the Chinese have been living since early Chinese civilization. It is their mother river, which they love and respect for the means of livelihood and natural habitat provided by it. But, though they hate to say it aloud, it has also been their endless source of hardship and sufferings: frequent flooding causing damages of agricultural products, properties, lands and above all, hardship and countless lives.
The main consideration behind the construction of this dam, is the numerous valuable lives lost in every flood. The August 1998 flood of the Yangtze River, caused 4,000 lives, and 24 billion dollars worth of damage. It may have been weighed many times before the final and difficult decision was made, placing human lives above all other important issues, like natural habitats, farmland, historic sites, culture and relocation.
Then comes the subsequently important issues of energy to help
China solve 1/9 of its energy need.
Loss of culture heritage needs the least worry from outsiders, as China is a country richest in culture preservation. No effort would have been spared to ensure maximum salvage of culture preservation and minimum loss of heritage along the affected areas. Moreover, river floods are the ones that have all along been destroying cities and cultural sites.
In the processes of development and modernization, haven't we been tearing down old buildings and structures, haven't we been changing our lifestyle for better comfort? Are not these constituting loss of our (previous) culture?
Archeological and endangered species losses could not be the primary concern to millions of people who have been living under hardship conditions. The relocation was clearly a positive move with new cities having modern plumbing and using coal gas for heating and cooking, electricity and water facilities, minus the fear factor.
What is wrong for China to stop the massive flooding, for generating a cleaner energy to reduce emissions! Use other options? Has not China been venturing into other options too?!
Are not the so called environmentalists placing wrong emphasis? No doubt, the heritage and the endangered species are our very concern. But which is of utmost importance: To avert the possible loss of millions of lives, in addition to having an added facility to generate cleaner hydroelectricity for GHG reductions; OR heritage and endangered species? I already answered it. So what is yours? (Comment posted on China Big Push for R.Energy)
01/08/2008 Tom Lin, NY
7/29/05 Mark St. Leger, Lake Elmo, Minnesota
Modernization is more important than preservation of antiquities. This happens in every city in America, as city fathers exert eminent domain for the greater good, taking farmlands and buildings, tearing down antiquated buildings for modern business, and so called urban renewal. Only time will tell if the dam does provide energy for the long term, or will it silt in like the Aswan Dam. Only time will tell if this is ten year or twenty year fix, or one of longer standing. China is moving forward for better or worse. History will be the judge of its consequences.
Three Gorges does have some ecological problems associated with it as stated in your article. However, the dam was built as a "flood control" structure (the electrical power generation is an ancillary benefit) because over 300,000 people have died in Yangtze River floods in the 20th century (156,000 in 1840; 142,000 in 1935; over 33,000 in 1954; and most recently over 3,000 in 1998). Naturally, when you build a large dam with its associated large reservoir, there will be ecological problems that were not previously existent; and these must be handled. However, the logic dictates that you build the dam to save the thousands of human lives. Then you must address the ecological problems that were unforeseen prior to the construction of the dam. Hydropower electrical production is much more efficient than wind energy (85% overall efficiency vs. wind energy's 40% overall efficiency). Hydropower also
In summary, the dam was required to avoid the loss of human life due to the frequent flooding of the Yangtze River; and the saving of human lives on such a large scale is imperative.
The ecological problems created have to be addressed. The electrical power generation is a large ancillary benefit.
Regardless of the differing perspectives, everyone agrees that the Three Gorges Dam is an incredible undertaking. Like China's Great Wall, it will be one of the few man-made structures visible from space.
The impacts on the environment and the benefit of this dam have to be monitored for the next 20 years at least to make a conclusion.
By 2006, the second largest hydroelectric power plant in the world is Itaipu Dam, a project jointly developed by Brazil and Paraguay. With a capacity of 12.6 GW. It produced 26% of the total energy demand of Brazil in 1997and 79% of Paraguay.