Three Gorges Project
The Three Gorges Project is one of the world's most remarkable engineering endeavors and one of the largest structures ever created, second in size only to the Great Wall of China.
The three main areas of the Three Gorges Project are the dam itself, a hydroelectric station, and a system of locks. The dam is about 2,300 meters (7546 feet) long and about 115 meters (377 feet) wide. Construction of the dam consumed more than 28 million cubic meters of concrete - more than any other structure in the world. When the dam is completed, it will hold up the world's biggest water reservoir, with a pool that will sit 175 meters (574 feet) above sea level. The Three Gorges Project will also feature hydroelectric stations on both sides of the dam, and a system of locks on the left side of the dam.
The Three Gorges Project is expected to be completed by 2009. Currently construction is focused at Sandouping, which is located in the center of Xiling Gorge in the Hubei Province. When it is completed, the Three Gorges Project will help to control area flooding, generate power, and aid in navigation. Flood control is the most crucial function of the Three Gorges Dam. With a water capacity of 39.3 billion cubic meters, the dam will hold a huge reservoir that will efficiently prevent flooding in the middle and lower portions of the Yangtze River. The regulated water flow will diminish the river's shallow shoals which currently emerge throughout the dry season. This will enable heavy freighters to sail directly across China's interior. Additionally, when the Three Gorges hydroelectric station is fully functional, it will generate 18,200 megawatts of power and will serve as the world's largest power station.
In 1992, China's state council adopted a resolution to proceed with the Three Gorges Project. In 1993, the council declared that construction was to officially begin, and engineers began work on the three-staged project. The entire project was projected to take 17 years to complete. During the first phase, the main channel of the Yangtze River was blocked and its water diverted into a side channel so that dam construction could take place. The second phase focused on constructing the cofferdam (a temporary barrier that keeps water out of a normally submerged area), the locks, and the hydroelectric plant. By the end of 2003, the first and the second phases had been successfully completed. Following the success of the second phase, the cofferdam was destroyed allowing a deep reservoir to form behind the dam. The first set of turbines has since begun to produce electricity, and the project now has stepped in to the third phase, which focuses on installing 26 additional turbines.
While the success of the first stages of the Three Gorges Project has been met with enthusiasm in China and around the globe, the project has also received its fair share of criticism, streaming back to its initial unveiling. The Three Gorges Project has aroused of controversy from historians who are upset about the historic landmarks and relics that will be lost, from environmentalists who fear the project will destroy scenic areas. While one cannot downplay the significance of these repercussions, it is reassuring to see the immense benefits that are already beginning to stream from the construction of the Three Gorges Project.