The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It is located in the middle of the three gorges on the Yangtze River, the third longest in the world, in the Hubei Province of China. The Yangtze River Dam 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.
The Chinese Government has four goals for the Three Gorges Dam project:
1. Flood Control: The history of the Yangtze River includes sing 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.
The dam is by far the worlds largest in both size and hydroelectric power generation. Its an astonishing engineer feat.
You see the Three Gorges Dam up close - and pass through its incredibly large locks in your ship. The Three Gorges Dam is a Hillman Wonder Bronze Medal winner.
Unfortunately, from the tourists perspective, it is raising the river water level behind it so high that formerly breathtaking rapid currents of the Yangtze River are all but disappearing. And, the water is permanently inundating some scenic and cultural riverside attractions (and forced over a million people to relocate).
However, much of the stunning natural beauty of the sheer gorges remain. And, the visit to the new dam and its locks have substantially added to the cruises appeal.
On balance, the Yangtze River cruise is still so exceptional that the sightseeing losses the dam caused should definitely not discourage travelers from making the voyage. Think of the marble statue Venus de Milo. She lost her arms but still is an object of beauty.