The Three Gorges Dam Project

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Map of Three Gorges Dam Site in Hubei Province, China. Courtesy of International Rivers Network.

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It is located in the middle of the tree gorges on the Yangtze River, the third longest in the world, in the Hubei Province of China. The project was approved by the Chinese government in 1992. However, construction didn’t begin until 1994. It is scheduled to be completed by 2009. The $25 billion project is being internationally funded by companies, export credit agencies, and banks from Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Sweden, and Brazil. Controversy about the project arises from human rights issues (as many as 1.3-1.9 million people have been forced to relocate) and environmental impacts.

Artist's rendition of the Three Gorges Dam.

The Chinese Government has four goals for the Three Gorges Dam project:
1. Flood Control: The history of the Yangtze River includes many devastating floods over the centuries killing thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damages. The dam will reduce the impacts of flooding since it will have a flood control capacity of 22.15 billion cubic meters.

2. Power Generation: The use of hydroelectric turbine generators will reduce China’s dependency on coal, a hydro carbon that produces greenhouse gases. The Three Gorges Dam will produce about 84.6 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy annually.

3. Navigation: The presence of the dam, the reservoir, and the ship locks will allow large ships to travel up and downstream for the first time. Ships from Chongquing will be able to transport goods all the way to the sea at Shanghai.

4. Tourism: Since the Three Gorges Dam Project is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, it is expected to be popular among tourists visiting China.

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