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Three Gorges: a monumental work

Three Gorges is a colossal feat of engineering; in fact, it is the largest and most powerful dam in the world. It is located in China and its construction required more than 28 billion cubic meters of concrete.

This work employed nearly 30,000 workers over a period of 17 years, distributed in 3 stages. It is capable of producing 22,500 megawatts of energy and His construction represents the reduction of carbon dioxide by 100 million tons.

The mega-work, without a doubt, contributes to the economic and social development of the country and puts a stop to the floods that occurred in part of its territory. Nevertheless, it also meant the displacement of more than a million inhabitants and an environmental deterioration that cannot yet be quantified.

the yangtze river

The Yangtze River, at 6,300 kilometers long, is the third longest in the worldafter the Amazon River and the Nile River. It originates in the Janggaingting Glacier on the Qinghai Plateau, in Tibet, at 5,800 meters above sea level.

The Yangtze basin has permanent rains, with an average annual rainfall of 1,100 millimeters. That’s why, this river also ranks third in the world in terms of flow, with 31,800 cubic meters per second. It is only surpassed by the Amazon River and the Congo River.

The enormous flow of the Yangtze River, added to that of its most important tributaries, the Xiang, Zi, Li and Yuan rivers, have always been perceived as having great hydroelectric potential. At the same time, they were a threat to the riverside peoplesespecially during the flood season, as they generated serious flooding.

According to historical records, from 185 BC to Imperial China in 1911, there were 214 catastrophic floods. Namely, on average, a calamitous flood every 10 yearswith balances that exceed 300,000 deaths.

A hydroelectric dream

The first serious proposal for the hydroelectric use of the Yangtze River was raised in 1920. This initiative was presented by the then president of the Republic of China, Su Yat-sen.

The intention was to increase the development and autonomy of the country, which generated a large number of projects, analyzes and studies in this regard. At the same time, intense debates were developed from social, political, economic and technical spheres.

The numerous discussions were waged over more than 70 years, until in 1992, the VII National People’s Congress approved the construction of the dam. The Three Gorges Dam project would start in the region known as Sandouping.

The Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is a gigantic work, 2,309 meters long and 185 meters high. It covers a huge area, between the cities of Yichang and Fengjie.

The Three Gorges—Qutang GorgeWuxia and Xiling—are the result of a narrowing of the river; the water cuts the granite to produce these formations. For the construction of this mega-project, 17 years were required, distributed in 3 stages between 1993 and 2009.

Among its main features there is a spillway with 22 gates, 2 hydroelectric plants and 2 navigation structures. One of these has the capacity to transport ships of up to 10,000 tons through a system of locks. The other has a vertical lift for ships up to 3,000 tons.

An additional benefit of the dam is the increased safety of boat navigation, mainly on the important river axis known as Chongqing-Shanghai. There the accident rate has been reduced by 60%.

The work has stimulated navigation, and this is how a traffic of 100 million tons per year has been reached. Downstream flows have risen from 3,000 to 5,000 cubic meters per second.

The impacts of the megaproject

The megaproject generated a great social impact in all the populations located in the surroundings of the Three Gorges. The main one was the displacement of 1,240,000 inhabitants.

occurred the demolition of 34.6 million square meters of housing and destruction of 24,500 hectares of crops. Additionally, this caused the disappearance of some 1,600 factories and approximately 825 kilometers of roads.

A significant impact was a worrying increase in water contamination in the reservoir. Faced with this, a contingency plan was launched with numerous treatment plants to purify it.

A situation that always bothered was the exaggerated cost of carrying out this project. This work is the most expensive infrastructure in the history of China; it is estimated that more than 75 billion dollars were invested.

incalculable losses

Another problem that most concerns the community is the accumulation of sedimentsagainst which the government has developed special discharge techniques. However, environmentalists from various sectors agree that this is just a cloth of warm water.

Additionally, they insist that the ecology of the region has been seriously affected. Proof of this is the disappearance of the Chinese dolphin, an endemic species in the area. They warn that other species, such as the Yangtze sturgeon and the Chinese sturgeon, will suffer the same fate, and that there will be a gradual environmental deterioration of more species and habitats.

As if this were not enough, there was a multitude of structures and objects from the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras that could not be salvaged. The sectors of the archaeological field regret not having had enough time to save those treasures present on the banks of the river.

Thus, traces including aristocratic tombs, ancestral burials, and structures from the Qing and Ming dynasties were lost. All this was submerged and probably lost forever.

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