Three Gorges Project

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Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Project (三峡工程) is a multi-functional water control system consisting of a 2,309-meter-long, 185-meter-high dam, a five-tier ship lock and 26 hydropower generators.

It was initially envisaged in 1918 by Sun Yat-sen, the forerunner of China's democratic revolution. And after more than half a century's debates and investigation, it was finally approved in 1992 by the National People's Congress (NPC).

Except for a planned ship lift, all the original plan of the project was accomplished on October 30, 2008, when the 26th generator was put to commercial operation.

The world's largest hydropower project is schemed to function in flood control, generate clean energy and benefit shipping, with flood control as its major effect. The filling of the reservoir will open more sections of the Yangtze River to 10,000-ton ships.

Statistics show that more than 420 km of the navigable course upstream the reservoir has become wider and deeper as a result of the filling of the reservoir.

In the past, only the section between Shanghai at the estuary of the Yangtze and Wuhan City in central China permitted the passage of 10,000-ton ships.

The section between Wuhan and Yichang, on the middle reaches of the river, could accommodate only 3,000-ton steamers, and the Yichang-Chongqing section was accessible only to 1,500-ton ships, due to submerged rocks, a shallow river bed and swift currents.

Since the filling of the reservoir, the depth of the section between Yichang and Chongqing has increased by 40 percent, the width has doubled and the speed of the current has cut by 50 percent.

The installation of ship locks is intended to increase river shipping from 10 million to 100 million tonnes annually, reducing transportation costs cut by 30 percent to 37 percent. Navigation through the notoriously dangerous gorges is easier and thus shipping becomes safer.

Before the dam was constructed, the maximum freight capacity of the river at the Three Gorges was 18.0 million tonnes annually. From 2004 to 2007, a total of 198 million tonnes of freight passed through the Three Gorges Dam ship locks. The freight capacity of the river increased six times and the cost of shipping reduced by 25 percent, comparing to the previous years.