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The Three Gorges Project: A Brief Introduction

1. A Dream for Generations to Come True
The idea of building a gigantic dam in the Three Gorges area to harness the Yangtze River is not new. More than seventy year ago, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, pioneer of the Chinese democratic revolution, first proposed that a Yangtze Three Gorges Project be constructed. Later, numerous experts conducted investigations on and preparatory work for the project. But because of historic reasons and lack of resources, the development of the project remained only a dream. Since the founding of the People? Republic of China in 1949, the project was back on the agenda. After meticulous feasibility studies by experts, it was finally concluded that the merits of the project far overweigh its demerits. On April 3, 1992, the National People? Congress approved the construction of the project. The Three Gorges Project has its main benefits in flood control, power generation and navigation.

Historically, the population in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River suffered tremendous losses from flooding both in human lives and property. In 1931 alone, as a result of flooding, 333 thousand hectares of cultivated land were stricken, 145 thousand people were drowned.

Currently, 15 million people and 1.6 million hectares of land along the Jingjiang section of the Yangtze River are serious threatened by flooding. Once the project? reservoir with a flood control storage of 22.1 billion cubic meters is completed, the project can raise flood control capacity from the present 10-year frequency to 100-year frequency.

With its total installed capacity of 18,200 MW, the Three Gorges Hydropower Station will generate 84.7 billion KWH a year, one-ninth of the national total generated power.

Thirdly, the project will enable 10,000-ton towboats to sail up-stream as far as Chongqing. The Yangtze? navigation capacity will thus be increased from 10 million to 50 million tons a year with the cost lowered by 35%-37%.

2. Problems to Be Resolved
The project also presents daunting problems which should be properly handled and solved to avoid any possible undesired impacts. These include resettlement of population, environmental protection, fund raising, etc.

About 1 million people will be relocated owing to the construction of the project. The government has attached great importance to the issue and decided to appropriate large sums of money for the resettlement program. The guiding principle of the program is that the life of the relocatees can only be improved. For this purpose, the government has adopted development-oriented resettlement, in other words, to combine resettlement with local economic development. The relocatees find higher-paying jobs in the newly set up businesses, which are usually located within the same country or city. Therefore, they feel quite at home and enjoy a better living in their new homes.

There has been concern about possible negative impacts on the environment by the project both at home and abroad.

This issue has been given very serious consideration and numerous measures have been taken to ensure environmental protection. For instance, the project construction will affect the habitats of Chinese river dolphin and Chinese sturgeon. So, the present protection areas and artificial breeding fields for them will be further perfected. It is not insignificant that the project will supply clean energy, replacing the burning of 50 million tons of raw coal annually. According to calculations, the discharge into the atmosphere of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, 1.2-2 million tons of sulphur-dioxide, 10,000 tons of carbon monoxide, along with large amount of flying dust will be drastically reduced. 44 historical relics will be affected by the project construction and measures will be taken for their protection. For example, the White Crane Backbone, an ancient identification record of dry seasons in the history will be relocated. The Sibaozhai in Zhongxian County and the Quyuan Temple whose foundations are to be submerged will be well protected from water-logging.

By the year 2009 when the project is completed, the total investment for the project will amount to US $28 billion. The funds for the project come from four sources: the Three Gorges Construction Funds, power revenues from the existing Gezhouba Hydropower Plant, power revenues from the Three Gorges Project starting from the year 2003 and loans and credits from the State Development Bank. In spite of the above sources, it is estimated that there exists a fund gap of $7.1 billion. This gap will be made up through domestic loans, export credits, overseas commercial loans and bond issuing, etc. As the project construction lasts 17 years and funding comes from multiple sources, fund raising does not present a difficult problem. The funding of the project has been smooth and no shortage of money has so far affected the progress of the project.

3. Progress in the Project
After the resolution on the Three Gorges Project was adopted in 1992, the State Council immediately started preparations for the project. On December 14, 1994, the Chinese government announced its formal commencement. The construction has proceeded smoothly since then. By the end of 1995, a total investment of 12.4 billion yuan ($ 1.55 billion) was made and 100 million cubic meters of earth and stone on excavation, 1.63 million cubic meters of concrete works and 220,000 square meters of building works had been completed. The implementation of the construction of the project has been executed on or ahead of schedule. All this is preparatory work for the first major goal of the project - the Yangtze River blocking in November 1997 and also for the consequent stage of the operation of the first generator set in 2003 and the completion of the whole project in 2009.

The Chinese government and people are confident that, relying mainly on their own efforts and also through international cooperation, they will successfully build up the Three Gorges Project.

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