CHINA / National

Three Gorges Dam nears completion
Updated: 2006-04-18 06:48

YICHANG, China - Thirteen years after construction began on the Three Gorges Dam on China's biggest river, work on the project often compared to the Great Wall in its scale is nearly complete.

A view of the Three Gorges Dam which is near completion after 13 years of construction. [newsphoto]

The first pickaxe fell in 1993, when access roads were built to the site on the 6,360-kilometer-long (3,940-mile) Yangtze River that runs from the Himalayan plateau in Tibet to the East China Sea near Shanghai.

"We are going to finish one year early. At the end of 2008, it will be completed," said Huang Hongyong, an official in charge of the project, as he proudly gestured towards the 2.3-kilometer length of the dam.

Besides generating massive hydroelectricity, the dam has been designed to control the flooding that has through the ages repeatedly laid waste to farms, towns and cities along the middle reaches of the river.

But due to silting caused by deforestation in the upper reaches, engineers have said massive amounts of sand and silt already accumulating in the dams' huge reservoir could eventually negate the flood control aspect of the project.

Naysayers have also criticized the cost of resettling more than one million people to make way for the reservoir, which they say will become a massive cesspool due to industrial waste and raw sewage from the city of Chongqing.

Backers of the dam, however, continue to dispute such views.

"The first goal of this dam was flood control," explained Qin Xixiang, assistant chief engineer of the China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Corporation, which owns the dam.

"Before, we might statistically suffer a flood every 10 years. Now, it will be every 100 years," said Qin.

And if the construction of the gorge has required the huge evacuation of 1.13 million people, sometimes by force, supporters of the project argue that it is for the protection of 15 million others.

In this rather dry period, the central spillway, flanked by the two sets of turbines and giant generators, is quiet.

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