Michael promised this part of our China tour would be at a more relaxed paced, however we had to have breakfast early to catch the bus by 830. Woo hoo, an extra half hour this morning! This morning we are off to tour the dam site and locks. The air is very thick this morning and made worse by the calm warm weather.
In preparation for this blog I have tried to do some research to gather more information on the building of the dam and the pros and cons of the dam.While touring the USA we have visited many mega projects and the construction of these projects are interesting and make for a great read. After seeing the railroad built across the Florida Keys I purchased and read the book,” The Last Train to Paradise.” I learned so much more about the railroad and hoped to find something similar about the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. I found no such book ( yet.) The internet has some information but given the various sources the information is one sided, either against the dam or painting a glowing picture of it. I can’t seem to find a middle ground.
The concept of the dam is over a hundred years old.In 1990 construction began on the dam which would become the largest power generator in the world. In addition to the dam, the “lock” system is big enough to handle containerized sea vessels allowing Chongqing to become the world’s farthest inland seaport. Construction of the dam was completed in 2006 and the last of it’s 34 generators installed last year. I find it difficult to obtain facts and articles regarding the project. For instance I found articles indicating the cost anywhere between 27 Billion ( US) to 75 Billion. ( Just a bit of a gap); In the construction of the dam, 13 cities, 140 town and over 1600 villages have been submerged. I did ask if the cities, towns and villages were destroyed/ moved prior to the flooding and was told yes. However the literature I have found indicates otherwise and says these flooded areas ( including mines) are leading to the pollution of the water. In the process 1.3 million people were displaced and once again the literature indicates these people for the most part are worse off, while our guides tell us they are much better off. The farmers were moved from the fertile valley to high mountain tops where they are scratching out small plots to grow their produce and also plant fruit trees to harvest. I am not sure they are better off.
The following information is taken directly from the website www.chinadam.com and spells out some of the controversy.
Table: Summary of the arguments in favor of and against the dam
Issue : Cost
Negative: The dam will far exceed the official cost estimate, and the investment will be unrecoverable as cheaper power sources become available and lure away ratepayers.
Positive: The dam is within budget, and updating the transmission grid will increase demand for its electricity and allow the dam to pay for itself.
Negative: Relocated people are worse off than before and their human rights are being violated.
Positive: 15 million people downstream will be better off due to electricity and flood control.
Negative: Water pollution and deforestation will increase, the coastline will be eroded and the altered ecosystem will further endanger many species.
Positive: Hydroelectric power is cleaner than coal burning and safer than nuclear plants, and steps will be taken to protect the environment.
Issue: Local culture and natural beauty
Negative: The reservoir will flood many historical sites and ruin the legendary scenery of the gorges and the local tourism industry.
Positive: Many historical relics are being moved, and the scenery will not change that much.
Negative: Heavy siltation will clog ports within a few years and negate improvements to navigation.
Positive: Shipping will become faster, cheaper and safer as the rapid waters are tamed and ship locks are installed.
Issue: Power generation
Negative: Technological advancements have made hydrodams obsolete, and a decentralized energy market will allow ratepayers to switch to cheaper, cleaner power supplies.
Positive:The alternatives are not viable yet and there is a huge potential demand for the relatively cheap hydroelectricity.
Issue: Flood control
Negative: Siltation will decrease flood storage capacity, the dam will not prevent floods on tributaries, and more effective flood control solutions are available.
Positive: The huge flood storage capacity will lessen the frequency of major floods. The risk that the dam will increase flooding is remote.
I have found a great deal of worrying information including information that the builders and others were corrupted and materials and construction systems may have been jeopardized and the dam may fail in the future. Given the volume of water, the resulting devastation is unfathomable.
Completion of the project is almost done.The construction of a small vessel lift, which has been delays several times, has resumed. When it is finished, small vessels can be loaded into an elevator type system and lifted to the reservoir level, taking just minutes instead of hours and of course frees up the locks for larger vessels.
Following the tour of the site, our bus returned up to the ship in time for lunch. We remain docked and leave around 5 p.m. We have an afternoon to relax and catch up with some housekeeping things. We finally can get laundry done ( at a price) and I think most on our tour took advantage of this. It was interesting to see when the laundry returned…Brian had nicely ironed underwear. At home his shirts don’t get ironed, so a little treat for him!
After a little nap we went to the upper level and sat out and enjoyed talking to others and just relaxing. Shortly after leaving the dock we sailed through the Xiling Gorge.The area is 66 km in length and is the longest and deepest of all the gorges with cliffs rising to 4,000 ft. I stayed on the upper deck snapping photos and enjoying the setting sun. The overpowering smell of Jasmine was a refreshing change from the city smells.
We have been told, prior to the flooding, all the vegetation that would fall below the waterline was removed, so the shoreline has several feet of bare rock above the water. We never did see any regrowth so I wonder how they keep it so clear…or perhaps I really don’t want to know how it’s done! The waterway is very busy with boats and barges hauling their cargo up and down the reservoir. I missed the Captain’s welcome reception, but was on time for dinner. There was entertainment that night but we opted for an early night.