Children play at a park in the Three Gorges reservoir region in Yichang, Hubei Province in central China, on October 1(XINHUA)
Born in the 1990s, Wu Sixiao still remembers the massive floods of 1998, which made his family worried sick day and night. Living on the first floor of a residential building in Honghu, Hubei Province, central China, one of the most severely affected places in the country, they had to drain water from the apartment using washbasins. His father also volunteered to help others fight the flood.
"This has never happened again after the construction of the Three Gorges project. Now, rather than worrying about the floods, people can even take a walk in the park by the Yangtze River," Wu said.
On November 1, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and the National Development and Reform Commission announced the official full completion of the construction of the project, saying that it has met all design requirements, presents a good overall performance, and fulfills the key roles of flood control, electricity generation, navigability improvement and water-resource utilization.
Construction of the Three Gorges project, currently the world's biggest water conservancy project, began in 1994. It is located on the trunk stream of the Yangtze between Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, and Yichang City in Hubei.
The project consists of three parts—a 2,309-meter-long and 185-meter-high dam, five-tier ship locks on the northern and southern sides, and 34 turbogenerators with a combined generating capacity of 22.5 million kw.
One of its main functions is preventing and controlling flood along the Yangtze River Basin. According to MWR statistics, by the end of this August, the dam had held back over 190 billion cubic meters of water during flood seasons since it first started operation in 2003. It also reduced flood peaks by some 40 percent. "This greatly eased flood-control pressure in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, bringing about significant benefits," MWR official Wang Zhangli said in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV).
Wang said that especially during this summer when the most serious floods since 1998 hit south China, the Three Gorges reservoir held back 25.4 billion cubic meters of water, accounting for more than half of the intercepted flood volume, effectively reducing catastrophic losses.
Xu Xinghua, Deputy Director of the Yangtze River Management Bureau in Jingzhou City in Hubei, said along the Jingjiang River, a section of the Yangtze which runs through Jingzhou, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate during the 1998 floods, whereas this year, there was little danger in the Jingjiang section, due to the Three Gorges reservoir.
"Upon completion of the project, the flood-control situation of the Jingjiang has changed," Xu told Xinhua News Agency.
Combo photo shows the site of the Three Gorges project (top) in 1993, and the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province on November 1(XINHUA)
Improving navigation conditions on the Yangtze has also been a major function of the Three Gorges project. Since the Three Gorges locks opened to trial navigation in June 2003, freight volume through them has increased rapidly. In 2011, it exceeded 100 million tons for the first time, and rose to 146 million tons in 2019. By August this year, about 1.48 billion tons of cargo had passed through the locks, boosting development in the Yangtze River Economic Belt and regions in southwest China.
As the world's largest hydropower station, the project had generated over 1.35 trillion kWh of electricity as of the end of August, contributing to the electricity supply across central and east China, as well as Guangdong Province in south China.
The development also serves as a major clean-energy production base, boosting energy conservation and cutting emissions. The electricity produced by the power station equals to that from burning 430 million tons of standard coal equivalent, leading to a reduction of nearly 1.17 billion tons in carbon dioxide emissions.
The construction of the project encountered many major technical issues. The efforts of tens of thousands of scientific researchers across decades provided the solutions to the many problems in terms of design, construction, equipment manufacturing, installation and debugging.
The scientific and technological achievements created during the construction of the Three Gorges project have won several national and provincial awards as well as hundreds of patents. The project won the special prize of the 2019 National Science and Technology Progress Award.
Jia Jinsheng, honorary President of the International Commission on Large Dams, believes that the successful construction and efficient operation of the project has promoted the rapid development of hydropower technology in China, and even the world.
In 1996, Liu Dale, born in north China, moved to Yichang, and worked at China Gezhouba Group Co. Ltd., contractor of the Three Gorges project. He said what impressed him the most was how the project directly and indirectly improved the lives of Yichang's people.
Located in Hubei, Yichang used to lag behind with its per-capita income on the low side. With the construction of the Three Gorges project, an increasing number of tourists pay visits to the city to take in the grand project, boosting the local tourism industry. According to the Yichang Statistics Bureau, the city's GDP ranked third among Hubei's 17 regions in 2019.
Water conservancy projects such as the Three Gorges Dam not only provide energy for local industrial development, but also promote the development of the local hydropower industry. Today, the hydropower industry is the most distinctive industry in Yichang.
Despite being a temporary worker in Yichang, Liu is proud of the city's transformation. "With more economic revenue, the city improved its infrastructure and industrial structure, which in turn facilitates
further economic growth. With more money in their pockets, locals began to pay more attention to improving the environment," Liu told Beijing Review. For several years, Yichang has won national recognition for improvements in its management, culture, infrastructure, environment, social order and economic development.
(Print Edition Title: A Grand Project)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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