Business / Economy

Three Gorges Dam boosts economy

By He Na (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-30 08:03

Three Gorges Dam boosts economy

The sluice gates of the Three Gorges Dam. [Photo/Xinhua]

A rise in the water level of the Yangtze River has seen companies forsake road and rail transport in favor of shipping, meaning more money is pouring into the regions along the waterway, as He Na reports.

Jin Shengguo, a veteran maintenance worker for the Yangtze River Wanzhou Waterway Management Administration in Chongqing, never imagined that navigating the Bayang Gorge, one of the river's deepest and narrowest waterways, could ever be safe and comfortable.

He remembers the days before the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, when he had to guide a small boat though the narrow waterway, notorious for its strong currents and hidden shoals, and risk his life by climbing the rock walls to repair navigation beacons while carrying heavy equipment.

"I remember that in July 1998, the Yangtze River suffered its worst floods in a century. One day I was on patrol aboard a working ship monitoring the navigation lights and I saw a huge amount of timber being carried toward me by the floodwaters and heading straight for a navigation beacon that has been bored into the riverbed. If the light had been broken or damaged, it would have spelled disaster for shipping using the channel, so I quickly reached the light and used a long bamboo pole to push the mass of wood clear of the beacon. It took all my strength and I almost fell into the water, but I managed it," he said.

Thanks to the construction of the dam, the largest water-conservancy project in the world, the Yangtze River waterway has been radically improved, especially the upper and middle reaches.

Before the dam was built, the stretch of river between Yichang in Hubei province and Chongqing in southwestern China was the most difficult water to navigate.

Data from the Changjiang River Administration of Navigational Affairs at the Ministry of Transportation show that a rise in the water level has eliminated the dangers posed by 139 dangerous shoals, and has widened 41 waterways, allowing boats to pass in both directions. Moreover, the deeper water also means that 25 stretches where tugboats were previously required are now clear.

Improved navigability

Chen Shupei, captain of the five-star Century Cruise, with 39 years experience on the river, also praised the dam.

"In the early years, with such poor conditions and so many potential dangers, only veteran captains with many years' experience dared navigate the waterways. But now the water level has been raised, meaning the hidden shoals no longer present a problem, the vessels have become bigger and bigger, and navigation of river has become comparatively easy for skilled captains," the 60-year-old said.

"Before, only small vessels could navigate the scenic spot called the "Little Three Gorges" in Wushan county, but now the water level has risen by 175 meters, so even luxury cruisers can use it. Even some of what were the shallowest branches of the river before are now navigable by medium-sized vessels," he added.

Nie Weiguo, director of the executive office of The Three Gorges Project Construction Committee of the State Council, said: "The 660-kilometer stretch between Yichang and Chongqing has been fundamentally improved by the construction of the dam, and that's greatly promoted the development of shipping on the river."

Statistics released by the office show that the annual volume of freight passing through the region of the dam is more than 100 million metric tons, far higher than the previous record annual volume of 18 million tons in the days before the dam. Transport costs have fallen by one-third, and the number of accidents has also been reduced by about 60 percent.

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