Construction begins on Three Gorges Dam

Construction begins on Three Gorges Dam

Construction is under way on the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China, and businesses from throughout the globe are being invited to participate in the historic undertaking. When completed in the year 2009, the dam is expected to hold 26 sets of 700-MW turbines and generators, with the capacity to generate 18,200 MW of electricity. Prime Minister Li Peng said China does not have the funding or the technology to complete the dam without outside assistance.

“Manufacturers and businessmen of large hydropower and transformer equipment from around the world are welcome to take part in the construction in the form of technology transfer or cooperation,” Li said at a recent press conference.

The project is expected to cost (US)$17.3 billion, and much of the funding is already planned. Investors are needed, however, for an expected 21 percent shortfall.

Approximately half the total funds will be raised through an electricity price increase throughout China, the State Development Bank in China has approved a loan for 17 percent of the financing and 7.5 percent of the money will come from commercial operation of the first phase of Three Gorges, which is expected to begin operation in 2003.

Foreign equipment vendors are slated to provide 4.5 percent of the total cost by financing equipment sales from banks outside China. The dam authority is discussing bond issues with several US investment banks in an attempt to fund the remainder of the project. The World Bank has refused to participate in the dam, citing risks and uncertainty of the project.

Despite 40 years of feasibility studies, several problems remain, including high sediment volume in the Yangtze which could choke the dam and fill the reservoir with mud, and unstable rock formations upstream that could create disaster at the dam site if dislodged by extended rains or an earthquake.

Engineering problems to be tackled include lessening the effects of sewage pollution and heavy sedimentation on large upstream cities like Chongqing, with a population of 15 million, and relocating up to 1 million people to accommodate the dam and accompanying 400-mile-long lake. The first 14,550 people have already been moved.

The project is expected to have long-term benefits for the nation for flood control, electricity generation and shipping.

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