We spent 4 days crusing the Yangtze river on board the Victoria Star cruise ship. This was my favorite part of the trip, although it's kind of sad to see the environmental distruction happening along the river. The Chinese are building the largest dam in the world on this river, and it's very near completion. When completed, the Three Gorges Dam project will raise the river a total of nearly 575 feet,
Here is a photo of our cruise ship main lobby.
Here is a photo of the dam showing the work in progress. The portion in the center and right of the photo is complete. There is only a small section to the left that is is missing the top section of the wall. The project began in the early 90's and is scheduled to be completed in 2009. The water level on the river has already been raised in several stages by over 400 feet, with the final stages set for some time in 2009.
The dam is projected to cost $29 billion when completed. It is rated the largest dam in the world based on hydroelectric power capacity, not on shear size. It will generate 18,200 Megawatts of power, which is around 5% of the country's total consumption. There will be a total of 26 hydroelectric generators operating when complete. I thought it was amusing that our guide was quite proud of the fact that the Chinese bought a few of these generators from GE and ALSTOM, but then reversed engineered them, and built the remaining ones themselves. The Chinese have a reputation of ignoring patent rights.
Here is a mock-up of the dam project at the visitor's center. The dam is on the upper left while a lock system is shown at the right. We actually passed through these locks in our cruise ship. There are four stages to the lock system, and it takes a few hours to get through.
This photo was taken near the visitors center which you can see in the previous photo in the grassy area between the dam and locks.
The next several photos were taken from our ship as we passed through the locks.
The project is called the Three Gorges dam because there are actually three very picturesque gorges along this section of the river. One is down stream of the river, and is largely unaffected by the dam, while the two upstream are. The next several photos were taken as we passed through the gorges.
All along the river, you can see large billboards placed there to indicate to the locals where the water level will be when the dam is completed. At the top of the hill in this photo, you can see the sign that says 175m. Obviously, the home in this photo will be flooded. It's estimated that 1.2 million people will be displaced by the river. The Chinese goverment financed the relocation and rebuilding effort for entire cities.
The Yangtze river basin is home to around 400 million Chinese people. There was extensive industrial development along this river over the years. Although the factories have since closed and been cleaned up, there is still alot of waste that is now, or will be, under water and leeching pollutants into the river. I read that an estimated 40 species of fish will become extinct as a result of this project.
In this photo, you can see that the current water level is 10 feet or so lower than "normal" by noting the plant growth. One of the reasons for the dam is to prevent flooding, which kills hundreds of people every year. At the time of our visit, the water was lowered in anticipation of the summer rainy season. Also note the 175M billboard on the hill indicating the final water level when completed. The other reasons for building the dam are for irrigation, navigation, and power generation.
We took a small Sampan boat ride up one of the tributaries along the river that was too shallow for our cruise ship. The steep cliffs and lush folliage made this one of the most beautiful spots along the river.
Here I thought I was capturing a great photo of an old Chinese relic carrying firewood up the bank of the river. He posed and waived to us as we passed by. As we went further, but not out of sight, I noticed that he walked back down and up again posing for the next boat. He repeated this several times and was obviously a paid exhibition for the tourists. We saw alot of this kind of stuff throughout our trip. The communist run tourism industry is very careful what they show you. Everything is very scripted, even the seemingly rural, local settings.
Traditional goofy photos required on your last cruise night.