highlight of each Yangtze cruise is The Three Gorges,
renowned for their magnificent scenery. However our attention was again
and again drawn to the controversial and much discussed
of the Three Gorges Dam which would dam up the water of the Yangtze
through all three gorges up to the city of Chonqing. By this time the project
was already in full swing and the planned water level was marked at the
mountain slopes along our route.
The 600 kilometre (375 mi) long reservoir would alter the appearance
of the Three Gorges as the water level on the average would rise over 70
meters and at various locations even about one hundred meters. Not only
landscapes would vanish but also whole cities, countless villages, many
factories and numerous archaeological and cultural sites. Altogether about
1.3 million people, mainly farmers, would have to be resettled in higher
reaches of the mountains, where the ground is not nearly as good as the
fertile alluvial land they have cultivated for centuries, but many more people
would be concerned about the ecological consequences. We saw deserted
cities and settlements but also new housing silos at higher locations –
a depressing scenario! However, the cruise was a fascinating experience
which gave us unforgettable impressions of the marvellous scenery as well
as the life and culture along the river.
When we visited the Three Gorges Dam, it
was still under construction, but already offered a grand view. The
original plan of the project was completed in October 2008 when the 26th
generator was activated. It is the largest hydroelectric power station
in the world but 6 more generators will be installed before 2011.
More than 18000 people were involved in the construction. Better
flood control and navigability, generation of energy and supply of water
for the north are the benefits of this grandiose building, but only time
can tell the full extent of this incredible environmental impact.