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The Three Gorges of Yangtze River extend 193 kilometers from the western Baidicheng in Chongqing Municipal City, to Nanjinguan of Yichang city in Hubei Province in the east. They differ from each other in sceneries: Qutang Gorge is straight and craggy; Wu Gorge, deep, serene and exquisite; while Xiling Gorge perilous for its shoals and rapid currents.

Qutang Gorge

From east to west, it measures 8 kilometers, starting from Baidicheng and ending at Daixi township. With vertical cliffs of some thousand meters high as its two flanks, the Qutang Gorge is only a few dozens of meters wide just like a narrow gateway. With swash and rumble, the surging Yangtze River pours into the gateway with great momentum. Looking up towards the tops of towering precipitous mountains along the Gorge, one sees from a boat only a narrow strip of clouds and sky, but under foot the River tears on violently.

Wu Gorge

It extends 40 kilometers from the mouth of Daning River of Wushan Mountain in the west to Guandukou of Badong in the east. The Wu Gorge is gifted with exquisite peaks and lush mountains and ranges. It's deep and serene with changeable weather. The rolling River twists and turns and boats zigzag their way along, as if cruising in a fantastic gallery.

The twelve peaks of Wushan Mountain all rise to the blue sly. They are endowed with various fascinating shapes. Among them, the most fabulous is the Peak of Goddess. It pierces through the heaven, and towers over the Yangtze River. A protruding rock of the Peak has the shape of a slim girl shrouded in clouds and mist faintly visible as if clad in fine gauze dress, looking attractive and exuding tenderness and love.

Xiling Gorge

It measures 75 kilometers from Xiangxikou to Nanjinguan. The whole Gorge area is covered with high mountains, gullies, dangerous shoals and hidden reefs of various sizes. The best-known perilous shoal is Qing Shoal. It's formed by collapsed craggy cliffs. Surging waves and rapid currents churn over the shoal embedded with rocks and stones here and there, and then drop two meters in elevation. Ships go downstream over the shoal at an arrow speed, but up the shoal it's as difficult as climbing a steep hill.

Three Gorges Dam Project

Location: Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei province

Height: 181 meters

Expected investment: 203.9 billion renminbi (US$24.65 billion)

Number of migrants: 1.13 million

Generation capacity: 18.2 million kilowatts (In comparison, the three nuclear plants in Taiwan have total capacity 5.144 million kilowatts, the Hoover Dam in the U.S. has capacity 2.078 million kilowatts, the Itaipu Dam on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the current largest dam, can produce 12.6 million kilowatts)

Construction timetable:
  1. 1993-1997: The Yangtze River was diverted after four years in November 1997
  2. 1998-2003: The first batch of generators will begin to generate power in 2003 and a permanent ship lock is scheduled to open for navigation the same year.
  3. 2004-2009: The entire project is to be completed by 2009 when all 26 generators will be able to generate power.
Early debates

Sun Yat sen first proposed building a dam on the Yangtze River in 1919 for power generation purposes, but the idea was shelved due to unfavorable political and economic conditions. Major floods resurrected the idea and the government adopted it in 1954 for flood control.

The economic reforms introduced in 1978 underlined the need for more electric power to supply a growing industrial base, so the State Council approved the construction in 1979. A feasibility study was conducted in 1982 to 1983 to appease the increasing number of critics, who complained that the project did not adequately address technical, social, nor environmental issues.

The project is approved

In the face of a lot of domestic and international pressure, the State Council agreed in March 1989 to suspend the construction plans for five years. Former Premier Li Peng crusaded for the dam and pushed it through the National People's Congress in April 1992 despite the opposition or abstention from one-third of the delegates. Such actions were unprecedented.

Resettlement soon began, and physical preparations started in 1994. While the government solicited technology, services, hardware and financing from abroad, leaders reserved the engineering and construction contracts for Chinese firms.

arguments in favor of and against the dam

The dam will far exceed the official cost estimate, and the investment will be unrecoverable as cheaper power sources become available and lure away ratepayers.
The dam is within budget, and updating the transmission grid will increase demand for its electricity and allow the dam to pay for itself.
Relocated people are worse off than before and their human rights are being violated.
15 million people downstream will be better off due to electricity and flood control.
Water pollution and deforestation will increase, the coastline will be eroded and the altered ecosystem will further endanger many species.
Hydroelectric power is cleaner than coal burning and safer than nuclear plants, and steps will be taken to protect the environment.
Local culture and natural beauty
The reservoir will flood many historical sites and ruin the legendary scenery of the gorges and the local tourism industry.
Many historical relics are being moved, and the scenery will not change that much.
Heavy siltation will clog ports within a few years and negate improvements to navigation.
Shipping will become faster, cheaper and safer as the rapid waters are tamed and ship locks are installed.
Power generation
Technological advancements have made hydrodams obsolete, and a decentralized energy market will allow ratepayers to switch to cheaper, cleaner power supplies.
The alternatives are not viable yet and there is a huge potential demand for the relatively cheap hydroelectricity.
Flood control
Siltation will decrease flood storage capacity, the dam will not prevent floods on tributaries, and more effective flood control solutions are available.
The huge flood storage capacity will lessen the frequency of major floods. The risk that the dam will increase flooding is remote.

Three Gorges of Yangtze River appears on the following banknote(s):
RMB P886 1980 5 Yuan
RMB P898 1999 10 Yuan
RMB PFX5 1979 10 Yuan

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