The Three Gorges Dam in China is built on the river Yangtze at Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei province. Construction of this dam has helped develop the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power station. This power plant can generate 18,200 MW of electricity. Each turbine generates 700 MW of electricity. Information published on the Three Gorges Dam throws light on the environmental issues in China. Take a look at the facts and figures related to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.
Important Information on the Three Gorges Dam
✱ The Yangtze is the longest river in China (in fact, in Asia) and the third longest river in the world. The total capacity of the Three Gorges Dam is 22,500 MW as the dam houses 32 big turbines and 2 small generators for supplying electricity to the plant itself.
✱ The name 'Three Gorges Dam' refers to the Qutang, Wu, and Xiling gorges. The lofty limestone cliffs, spread over an area of about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Fengjie in Sichun province, to Yichang in Hubei province, make this area picturesque.
✱ Records show that in the past 2,000 years, people living along the river Yangtze have faced 215 catastrophic floods. More than 3 million people were dead due to flooding and starvation after the floods in 1931. Floods in 1998 left 14 million people homeless. About 4000 people lost their lives and the estimated economic loss was around $24 billion. The dam will help control flooding. The dam also increases the shipping capacity of Yangtze. The dam is designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
✱ The Three Gorges Dam involved the construction of a 610-feet high wall crossing the river Yangtze. The length of the wall is 1.3 miles from bank to bank. The backwater covers the area of 360 miles. 13 cities, 140 towns and over 1,300 villages, which will be submerged by the Three Gorges Reservoir. About 27 million cubic meters of concrete was required to construct the dam. This is eight times as much as required to construct the Hoover dam on the Colorado River. The construction cost of the dam is estimated to be over $30 billion.
✱ As said, the construction of the dam involves submerging of 13 cities, 140 towns and over 1,300 villages in the reservoir. About 1.5 million people had to vacate their homes for this purpose. About 1,300 known archaeological sites were lost forever under water. Such facts and figures have made the world's largest dam, the most controversial hydroelectric project of the world.
✱ The Three Gorges Dam helps store over 5 trillion gallons of water. According to the engineers and designers, the dam can withstand an earthquake of 7.0 on the Richter scale. Although the construction of the Three gorges Dam is considered as a foundation for China's future economic prosperity, it has led to various economic and environmental issues. Along with fresh water, over 265 billion gallons of raw sewage that is thrown into the river Yangtze every year, will also get accumulated in the reservoir.
✱ According to the available Three Gorges Dam information, submerging of thousands of factories and mines can lead to mixing of toxins in the water. This can result in life-threatening effects on the people and animals living in the region. This can result in decreased population of Siberian cranes, the baiji dolphin (already an endangered fish), the fin-less porpoise, the giant sturgeons, etc.
✱ Experts say that the accumulation of sediment behind the dam and throughout the reservoir can reduce the overall storage capacity of the reservoir in future. Decreased storage capacity will reduce the flood control capacity of the dam. So the main purpose behind the construction of the dam can be thus destroyed. High rate of sediment build-up in the reservoir can result in erosion of the wetland habitat and destruction of the biological diversity of the region. The people of Egypt have already experienced such an effect after the completion of the Aswan Dam on the river Nile. Increased number of landslides due to erosion of the reservoir and downstream riverbanks is considered as a 'problem that needs urgent attention'. Engineers think that openings at the base of the dam (sluice gates) can help flush sediment through. But such gates have never been tried on a huge dam like Three Gorges Dam.
Construction of Three Gorges Dam has created several issues about high corruption, the continuously increasing cost of the dam, numerous environmental problems, violation of human rights, and difficulties in resettlement. And if you take into consideration the one in one thousand chance of a dam collapse, (if the Taiwanese military tries to destroy the dam) then you can imagine what would be the plight of the millions (over 360 million) of people who live downstream.
The Chinese government however is proud about this project and considers the Three Gorges Dam as an engineering miracle, leading to social and economic success. But it's time to think about the long term effects of dams and what we need to do to save our planet Earth and the natural environment that promotes human life.