The waiting cruise ships then announce the Three Gorges Dam.This huge, disputed structure appears directly before us. The maximum storage level is 344 ft. This will create the largest artificial lake in the world with a length of 391 mi. This makes the Yangtze until Chongqing navigable for ships up to 10,000 BRT. The dam wall is around 1 mi. long and 574 ft high.
The decision to build the dam led to the first vote in the National Congress which was not decided unanimously. With around 1100 votes to 400, the dam construction was approved.
Besides improving shipping, the dam serves to control flooding along the Yangtze. Between 1931 and 1935, flooding cost 150,000 people their lives and in 1954 over 35,000 people died. In 1949, train transport along the vital Beijing – Hongkong line was interrupted for 100 days. In August 1996, a flood catastrophe was only barely prevented with the help of 200,000 soldiers and millions of civilian helpers. In 2002, another catastrophe was prevented by evacuating half a million people in time.
Already on the journey from Wuhan to here, we could see the immense dam to the side of the Yangtze and we were filled with awe. However during flooding, parts of this flat landscape are covered with water up to 45 ft in height. The efforts of the Chinese government to cope with this problem are enormous. Approximately 1, 3 million people had to be relocated due to construction of the dam. Costs are estimated to be 20 billion dollars.
Another reason for building the dam is the energy it provides: after completion, generators will be able to deliver 18200 megawatts, which is 1/3 of China’s energy requirements today and is the equivalent of 18 nuclear reactors or 50 million tons of coal which would have to burn each year.
In order to react to earth slides in time, many slopes are constantly under seismological observation through the use of sensors.
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