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Three Gorges Dam Construction Project

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Thu, 31 Aug 2017

Section 1: Goal, Scope and Rationale

The Three Gorges Dam is widely accepted as the largest Dam Construction project to ever take place. The main goal of the project was to design and build the biggest hydroelectric dam of the world on the Yangtze River in China, which would be over 180 meters in height and 2.3 km in width.

The motivation behind constructing the Dam was in order to control the river’s water levels to limit flooding, and to produce hydroelectric power. (YangtzeRiver.org) (Power-Technology, 2010) The Dam was intended to raise the water level on one side of the river by 100 meters. This would lead to many small towns and buildings that were near the Three Gorges Dam to become flooded. In fact, over one million people were to be displaced in order to construct the Dam. In order to accommodate the people who were displaced, new towns had to be built in order to transfer the people living near the Dam to other safe areas. The project also involved installing some 28 generators in order to produce an estimated 18 MW of hydroelectric power. (LongPassages.org) An additional 6 power generators are planned to be installed in order to increase the Dam’s power production capacity (InternationalRivers.org) The Dam was also designed to facilitate ship locks, which would be extremely useful in order to allow ships to travel across the dam without interfering with their travel route options. (LongPassages.org) The Project was given the green light for construction to begin in 1992 but official construction started in 1994. The Project cost was estimated at $9 billion. The project was to be funded by several different sources including international banks from Switzerland and Canada and various other companies. (InternationalRivers.org)

Section 2: Strategy Alignment

The Three Gorges Dam was a project undertaken by the Chinese government. As the Chinese government obviously did not have the resources available to construct the Dam, e.g. expertise, experience and equipment, the Chinese government outsourced to European and American companies. Western companies which were involved in the project were mainly involved with supplying the power equipment and restrictions were imposed on them. It was agreed upon that the manufacture of the power equipment such as generators and turbines had to take place in China, in partnership with local companies. (InternationalRivers.org)

In the example of the Three Gorges Dam, which is a government led project, it can be clearly observed how the project aligns with the government’s strategy. China is generally accepted as one of the largest Carbon Dioxide emitting countries in the world coming in second place behind the United States and suffers from increasing pollution levels in the air. In addition to this, China is considered to be a booming economy, with an ever increasing demand for energy. In order to be able to supply this increasing demand in energy, without increasing its carbon footprint, the Chinese government implemented a strategy of investing in clean sources of energy such as hydroelectric power. (DavorH, 2015)

To some extent the Three Gorges Dam aligns with this strategy as it promised. The Dam would produce 18 MW of clean hydroelectric power which would in turn reduce Chinas dependency on coal for energy production and would reduce Chinas carbon footprint. Also the Dam would enable the controlling of water levels and hence flooding. (Hays, 2013) (YangtzeRiver.org)

There were of course alternative ways to produce clean energy and to reduce Chinas carbon footprint, rather than building the Three Gorges Dam. Some alternatives include nuclear power, solar energy, Wind energy or even investing in making energy production from coal power stations more efficient. All these methods could also have reduced Chinas carbon footprint.

Section 3: Management of Risk

When it comes to risks, the Three Gorges Dam can be considered to pose many. From risks to the environment, to financial risks, to physical risks, the Three Gorges Dam has them all.

I believe that in my opinion the largest risk is the physical risk of a major earthquake. Geologists have confirmed that the Dam lies on the intersection of two fault lines. This is usually the area most prone to earthquakes as tectonic plates slide across each other.

It is believed that even though the Dam lies in a high risk area already, the massive weight of the water exerts extremely high pressure on the ground below the Dam which can eventually assist in the formation of an earthquake. Several tremors have been recorded near the Dam since its construction which has raised concern over this phenomenon. (Watson, 2008)

It is possible that in the event of a large earthquake, the Dam could possibly collapse. In the event that the Dam would collapse, massive amounts of water would be suddenly released and allowed to travel downstream, as well as massive pieces from the Dam wall. This could result in large scale destruction of property downstream, destruction of the environment and even mass scale death since millions of people live downstream of the river. The Chinese government has been addressed with these concerns from its citizens. The Chinese government has made a statement ensuring the public that the largest scale earthquake that is possible in that region is not large enough to destroy the Dam. (Adams, 2011)

I believe the risk of an earthquake destroying the Dam is the most significant risk to the Three Gorges Dam as it poses a risk that occurs suddenly and there is no warning given prior to the event which would enable engineers to assess the situation.

Section 4: Conclusions: Evaluation of Project Success

When taking into consideration what the main goal of the project was, which was to build the world’s largest Dam and hydroelectric power station, the project has succeeded. The Three Gorges Dam is now the largest Dam in the world and the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world.

On the other hand, there were other aspects in which the project can be considered to have failed. The project was aimed to cost $9 billion before construction begun, but by 2012 the expected cost had climbed up to $37.2 billion. The actual cost was more than 4 times the estimated cost before the project had begun and this is a major problem for the project’s success. With regards to time, the project begun construction in 1994 and construction was completed in 2006. (InternationalRivers.org)

At the end of the Dams completion, an estimated 1.4 million paper were calculated to have been forced to relocated somewhere else, a total of 16 cities, 140 towns and 1350 villages were submerged in water. (BBC, 2012)

On the other hand, the reason the Dam was constructed was to produce hydroelectric power in order to reduce the Chinese Governments dependency on coal, and to control flooding. With regards to power production, in 2012, the Dams power production capacity was 22.5 Gigawatts, which is equal to an outstanding 11% of Chinas hydroelectric power production capacity. The fact that a single Dam amounts to 11% of the countries hydroelectric power production capacity can definitely be considered as a success in that manner. With regards to flooding control, Chinese officials have stated that the Dam is a solution to the problem of flooding. (BBC, 2012) In my opinion, I consider the whole project to have been a success, as it has increased Chinas hydroelectric power production capacity by a large amount as well as allow for the controlling of life taking floods. Even though the project cost far more than estimated, and has created problems for some people I believe that the ultimate goal of increasing Chinas hydroelectric power production capacity as well as allowing for the controlling of flooding was achieved and therefore the project can be considered a success.

References 

Adams, P. (2011) Chinese study reveals Three gorges dam triggered 3, 000 earthquakes, numerous landslides. Available at: https://journal.probeinternational.org/2011/06/01/chinese-study-reveals-three-gorges-dam-triggered-3000-earthquakes-numerous-landslides/ (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

BBC (2012) China’s Three gorges dam reaches operating peak. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-18718406 (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

DavorH (2015) China – hydropower as the right solution? Available at: http://www.our-energy.com/china_hydropower_as_the_right_solution.html (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Hays, J. (2013) THREE GORGES DAM: BENIFITS, PROBLEMS AND COSTS. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat13/sub85/item1046.html (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

InternationalRivers.org Available at: https://www.internationalrivers.org/sites/default/files/attached-files/3gorgesfactsheet_feb2012_web.pdf (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

LongPassages.org Available at: http://www.longpassages.org/3_gorges_dam.htm (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Power-Technology (2010) Available at: http://www.power-technology.com/projects/gorges/ (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

Watson, S. (2008) Why could china’s Three gorges dam cause an environmental disaster?Available at: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/three-gorges-dam-disaster1.htm (Accessed: 5 December 2016).

YangtzeRiver.org Available at: http://www.yangtzeriver.org/threegorges_dam/why-built-three-gorges-dam.htm (Accessed: 5 December 2016).


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