Three Gorges Dam - Watery World Case Study

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The Three Gorges Dam


The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze river in Sandouping, Hubei Province, China. It is the Largest hydroelectric dam in the world. 


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Economic Growth

  • The navigable waterways along the Yangtze river will provide mass transit of raw materials to the area, allowing massive economic growth.
  • This combined with the reduced transportation costs provides an attractive   location for industries seeking a cheap labour force.
  • A new railway, linking the area to the rest of the North-East, will be built alongside a new highway linking with Shanghai. Also a new airport will open up the region for industrial development.

Flood Control

  • The dam will have a flood control capacity of 22.15 billion m³.
  • It will protect 1,500,000 hectares of farmland, and the lives and property of 15 million people. 
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Power Generation

  • 84.6 billion kilowatts hours are produced from the hydroelectric plant, which is equivalent to the power produced from 18 nuclear power stations,


  • The dam has allowed container shipping to reach all the way up the Yangtze river, from Shanghai to Chongqing, the biggest city in South-West China.
  • River transport will be improved from 10 million to 50 million tonnes per year, and costs reduced by 35%.


  • There are plans to spend 3 billion yuan (£300.6 million) to improve tourism in the dam area
  • More than 800,000 tourists visited the Dam in 2007, with tourism revenue reaching $15.6 million.
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Negative Effects


  • Around 1.4 million people had to be relocated as their homes would have been lost, making way for the final height of 157m above sea level. The displaced people had to move to new settlements.


  • One of the most worrying consequences of the dam has been the sharp increase in landslides around the dam. These are caused by the huge weight of water behind the dam and the fluctuations of water level.
  • The reservoir has collapsed in 91 places and a total of 36km have been caved in. Landslides have produced waves of 50m.
  • In July 2005, a hillside collapsed, dragging 19 farmers to their deaths and     drowning 11 fishermen.

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Negative Effects


  • Of the 3,000 to 4,000 Siberian Crane, a large number currently spend the winters in the wetlands that have been destroyed by the Three Gorges Dam.
  • The Dam contributed to the extinction of the Yangtze river Dolphin.
  • There are high levels of pollution in the Yangtze river, over 1 billion tonnes of waste water is released into the river annually.
  • The water quality in the tributaries of the river has deteriorated, as the dammed river is less able to disperse pollutants effectively. 
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