China’s massive Three Gorges hydroelectric power station project on the Yangtze River has so far cost a total of 70bn yuan ($8.4bn), said China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Development Co. The total cost of the project, which has been under construction since 1993, is estimated at 203.9bn yuan and is due for completion in 2009.

Three Gorges will be the world’s largest hydropower plant capable of generating 18.2 GW of electricity, with a yearly output of 84.7TWh – equivalent to burning 50 million tone of crude oil.

When compared to coal-burning facilities of a similar size, the Three Gorges Plant can cut a large amount of carbon dioxide, one to two million tons of sulphuric dioxide, 10 000 tons of carbon monoxide, and 150 000 tons of dust.

According to sources, the project is within budget. Based on current construction performance, price and interest rates, and in case no major policy changes and economic spirals take place, the total investment of the project will be no more than 180bn yuan.

Chinese authorities claim that all project loan financing will be repaid within three years of operation through payment for power generated.

The hydroelectric power will be used in the eastern and central China regions and the eastern part of southwest China’s Sichuan province.

The idea of damming the Yangtze at Three Gorges in order to better use the rich water resources of the river and improve navigation was proposed as long ago as 1919.

A series of disastrous floods during the century, the most damaging of which was in 1954, served as a warning that permanent measures were required to harness the Yangtze. Over the following four decades the process of planning, prospecting, researching and designing took place but it was not until 1992 that the Fifth Plenary Session of the Seventh National People’s Congress finally approved a resolution to proceed with the Three Gorges Project.

In 1997 the first phase of the project was completed and work on phase two began.