Dams and Landslides

Three Gorges dam finished

February 28, 2000

After 10 years in the making, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River has been finished. That’s almost ten months ahead of schedule. The last cubic meter of concrete was poured into the 185 meter-high main wall on Sunday afternoon. Our reporter Guo Liying was there… All across the nation, people’s heart and soul stays with these workers as they started here almost ten years ago to erect the world’s highest dam. And the moment has finally come for the world to examine it in its full glory. Li YongÍan, the geral manager said, “We started pouring concrete on December the 11th, 1997. Almost ten years, or 3,080 days have passed. With the hard work and dedication of so many workers, a total of 19.3 million tons of concrete has been poured to form the main wall of the dam. Now we’re able to report to people across the nation that the construction of the Three Gorges Dam has finally concluded.” Temperature control turns out to be the most crucial step in the final stage. Cold water and even ice cubes have been used to keep the concrete’s temperature under 14 degrees Celsius so that no fissures appear on the main wall. Though speaking with restraint, authorities can not hide their excitement over the dam’s early completion. The chief engineer of Yangtze survey &planning ,said, “The Three Gorges Dam began to store water 3 years ago. Power generation also started the same year. It’s been recorded that the Three Gorges Project began to play its roles of power generation and shipping. The early completion of the construction of the dam means that it will no longer rely on its outer rim embankment to withstand floods and generate power. It will be fully capable to do so on its own.” Flood control is perhaps one of the most important functions of the world’s largest water conservancy project. Upon completion, the more than 2,000-meter-long dam will start to exert its flood-control function by raising its water storage. By the end of October, the water level in the reservoir is expected to reach 156 meters, 21 meters higher than its current level. Authorities say the dam will be solid enough to withstand devastating floods and terrorist attacks. Thr desputy GM, Cao Guangjing said, “The dam’s main wall is made of reinforced concrete and steel bars. It would not be seriously marred by conventional weapons. In case of a nuclear attack, authorities can gradually discharge the dam’s maximum water storage in three or four days.” Due consideration has also been given to environmental protection. Authorities say the Three Gorges Project will not pose a serious threat to the Yangtze River’s water quality. He said, “The water storage capacity of the Three Gorges reservoir is about 22 billion cubic meters. It is only 1/20 of the total net volume of the river running across the river valley annually. It will have little influence on the water quality. ” But some concerns still remain. Earthquakes are a potential threat to such a large-scale project. Concrete and other waste discharged during the construction will also have to be disposed of. Over the next five years, the Chinese government plans to invest 40 billion yuan, or some five billion US dollars to set up 100 water treatment plants and waste disposal sites in the area. It also plans to invest 10 billion yuan, or some 1.2 billion US dollars to find solutions for damage from earthquakes and landslides. The prospect of the Three Gorges Project is encouraging. Within five years, it will become the center of China’s national power grid. By then, its 32 power generating units will go into full operation, producing up to 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Guo Liying said, “Some says this is the grandest project that the Chinese people have undertaken in a thousand years.”

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