Three Gorges Dam, Power Station and Impact on Earth’s Rotation

Three Gorges Dam, Massive Water Project And Its Impact

The Three Gorges Dam is situated on the Yangtze River in the Hubei province of China, near the town of Sandouping, in the Yiling District.

The dam strategically stands in Xiling Gorge, one of three naming gorges, along with Qutang and Wu Gorges.

The geographical features surrounding the dam are characterized by steep cliffs and lush, mountainous terrain.

The Three Gorges Dam is indeed considered the world’s largest hydroelectric power station.

It has the highest installed capacity for electricity generation among all hydroelectric plants globally.

Moreover, the reservoir created by the dam spans approximately 600 km, submerging numerous towns and villages along its shores.

Thus, the Three Gorges Dam is an engineering marvel, crucial for China’s power generation and flood control.

Read also: Dolomites, Mountain Range with Pinkish Hue Phenomenon

Ingenious Creation for Electricity Generation and Flood Mitigation

The Three Gorges Dam, an engineering marvel, impresses with a 185 m height and a 2.3-km length.

This awe-inspiring structure required an enormous amount of concrete and steel.

The dam fulfills a primary objective of electricity generation. Boasting 32 turbines and a 22,500 MW capacity, it’s the world’s largest power station.

This substantial energy output has significantly contributed to China’s power needs, markedly reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

Beyond power generation, the dam excels in flood control, effectively mitigating the historically devastating floods along the Yangtze River.

The dam’s reservoir, with vast water-holding capacity, crucially protects downstream areas from catastrophic floods.

The Cost, Construction, and Controversies

Constructing it cost 200 billion yuan, took nearly two decades, and displaced over a million along the Yangtze River.

The government assured the dam’s ability to shield downstream communities from a “once in a century flood,” but skeptics question its effectiveness.

Recent uncertainties arose with the Yangtze basin’s heaviest rainfall in nearly 60 years, causing overflowing rivers and tributaries.

Severe consequences include 158 casualties, 3.67 million displaced, and a 144 billion yuan economic loss.

Despite the havoc, Chinese authorities assert that the Three Gorges Dam has played a “crucial role” in intercepting floodwaters.

According to the dam’s operator, the China Three Gorges Corporation, the dam has intercepted 18.2 billion m3 of potential floodwater.

NASA Study on the Impact of the Three Gorges Dam

In 2005, NASA scientists conducted a comprehensive study of the Three Gorges Dam, employing cutting-edge technology and methodologies to assess its impact on the surrounding environment.

Led by a team of skilled researchers, the study utilized satellite imagery, remote sensing techniques, and on-ground observations to analyze various aspects of the dam’s influence.

These scientists actively investigated changes in land use, water levels, and sediment distribution caused by the dam’s construction.

NASA experts report that the Three Gorges Dam has induced a shift in the Earth’s rotation, extending daylight hours by 0.06 milliseconds.

Geophysicists liken this phenomenon to the spinning top analogy, wherein the dispersion of a substantial mass across a wide area tends to slow down rotation, while concentration of mass at a specific point accelerates it.

Several Impacts and Environmental Controversies

The Three Gorges Dam construction displaced over a million, raising substantial social and humanitarian concerns.

Furthermore, many villages and historical sites submerged raise questions about compensation and the human cost of large-scale projects.

Beyond human impact, the dam profoundly influences the local ecosystem, altering water flow and affecting aquatic life.

These changes raise concerns about the long-term ecological consequences and have repercussions downstream.

In addition to these ecological challenges, experts have expressed geological concerns about the dam’s potential impact.

Concerns arise from the reservoir’s immense weight and changing seismic activity, especially regarding earthquakes and landslides.

Consequently, debates over the dam’s safety and long-term stability have become central to the ongoing discourse surrounding the Three Gorges Dam.

The Idea Maker and Execution of Three Gorges Dam

Chinese leaders are aspired to construct an extensive dam on the Yangtze, a river that has frequently caused destruction to its banks during flood season.

Meanwhile, the idea begins from Sun Yat-sen, who has influence on Chinese history and politics.

He is a revolutionary leader and the founder of the Republic of China, but did not have a direct influence on the planning or construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

The idea and execution of the dam were carried out long after Sun Yat-sen’s time, with planning starting in the 20th century and the construction taking place from the 1990s until its completion in 2006.

In the 1940s, Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen’s successor, continued the endeavor by inviting the distinguished American engineer John L. Savage to participate in the project.

After assuming power, the Chinese Communist Party, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, continued to support the project.

Mao expressed his endorsement through a poem, envisioning “walls of stone” and “a smooth lake rising in the narrow gorges.”

However, his plans faced disruptions during the upheavals of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

When Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, revisited the idea in the late 1970s, it encountered strong opposition from hydrologists, intellectuals, and environmentalists.

They highlighted concerns about human and environmental costs, including mass relocations, threats of geological hazards, environmental damage, and the loss of archaeological sites.

Read also: Luoyang, Former Ancient Capital with Cave Arts to Modern City

The Evolution of the Three Gorges Dam

The idea of harnessing the power of the Yangtze River dates back to the early 20th century.

However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that serious planning for the Three Gorges Dam began.

The primary goals were flood control, electricity generation, and improved navigation along the Yangtze.

Completed in 2006, this hydroelectric dam is not only the world’s largest power station. It is also one of the most controversial and debated infrastructure projects in recent history.