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The Three Gorges Dam

Free essayThree Gorges Dam Analysis

Firstly, energy plays a vital role in many dimensions of sustainable processes that include social, environmental and economic. Availability of a secure supply of energy leads to sustainable development both in the economic activities and provision of services to the community. The dam was created to produce hydroelectricity, and it spans the river Yangtze by Sandouping town that is situated in Hubei province in China. The dam is the leading power station in the world on the basis of the capacity installed. The construction of the dam ended in 2009. In China, the gap between the supply of energy and demand is very wide, which this results to energy shortage. The most highly sought energy sources are natural gas, oil and electricity. The gap leads to China’s need to import huge amount of oil, which results to a high concern on energy security in China. The dam is also vital in that it has the capability to reduce coal burning, control the heavy floods occurring along the river Yangtze and provide other benefits in the environmental management. Nevertheless, the dam also has some drawbacks and destructive consequences. Moreover, the dam provides electricity that is renewable, available and reliable; it is a crucial factor that boosts the development of China. It does not give absolute sustainability since China still depends on imported oil and does not augment energy security in China.

The Three Gorges Dam was created to produce hydroelectricity, and it spans the river Yangtze by Sandouping town situated in Hubei province in China. The dam is the leading power station in the world on the basis of the capacity installed. In 2012, the dam generated the amount of electricity that was similar to that produced by a dam known as Itaipu. On the 4th July, 2012, the dam was fully functional. In the same year, the main turbines situated in the underneath plant began their function. The dam constitutes 32 major turbines, and each one of them has 700MW capacity. It also has two small generators each with a capacity of 50MW to provide power to the plant. The dam’s electric generating capability is 22,500MW.

Nevertheless, the dam has other functions such as increasing the shipping capacity at the Yangtze river and reducing floods potential by providing storage space for floods. The dam project is regarded by the government of China as a notable engineering, economic and social achievement, with the aim of restraining greenhouse gas emanations.

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The estimated cost of the Three Gorges Dam project is 180 billion Yuan. The recovery of the full cost is estimated to be in ten years’ time after it starts its operation. The generation of 3600PJ from the dam will mean full recovery of the construction cost. The sources of funds were Gezhouba Dam profits, corporate bonds and the China Development Bank loans (Barber & Ryder 1993). There were also additional charges from those provinces that benefited from the Three Georges Dam; each province was to pay 7 Yuan per MWh. The other provinces contributed 4 Yuan as an additional charge.

The energy structure in China is becoming more diversified from coal dominated energy to hydroelectric energy (Cowles 1999). The dam led to the development of hydroelectricity that increased the supply of energy and tackled the concerns of unequal distribution of resources. The dam increases diversity in the distribution of resources to a larger area, such as the supply of electricity, and adds to the portfolio of energy supply.

Environmental Impact


The dam helps in controlling emissions and major air pollutants. It helped lower the high dependence on vestige fuel since the generation that was fired by fossil fuel was reduced. The action helped reduce air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, dust and sulfur dioxide compounds. In 2006, China’s National Development and Reform Commission stated that 1 kWh of electricity can be generated from coal weighing 366 grams (Kite 1998). When the dam has full power, it reduces consumption of coal thirty one million tons each year. It also avoids about one thousand tons of gas emissions from greenhouses, emission of dust, sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and mercury (Chetham 2002). Therefore, the dam is of great importance to the community because it controls harmful gases from the environment that if neglected can lead to death of human beings. Hydroelectricity sets aside the energy required in mining, washing and transporting coal.

The power produced between the year 2003 and 2007 was equivalent to the amount of standard coal that weighed eighty four million tons. It helped in the reduction of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (Chetham 2002). The dam also increased the capacity of Yangtze barge six times; this reduced emission of carbon dioxide by six hundred and thirty thousand tones. Sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide are harmful to human beings, their control in the dam helped create a good environment that can sustain the population surrounding the dam (Kite 2011).

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Management of Waste

The dam improved wastewater treatment in the upstream in the region of Chongqing and its uptown areas. The Environmental Protection Ministry suggested that new plants could treat 1.84 million tons of water per day; this value would be approximately sixty five percent of the overall need. Landfills were added so as to handle the large amount of solid dissipate each day (Hong 2004). The wastewater management is of great help to the community since the water is treated and used by the community in times of drought when there is no adequate water.

Forest Cover

The dam largely contributes to the forest cover in the area. China has come up with the idea of reforestation in order to reduce flooding that displaces people and also causes death around the region of the Yangtze river. The floods in the Yangtze river in 1998 accelerated and convinced China’s government to restore the vegetation cover, more so in the upstream Yangtze’s basin of the dam. The restoration of the vegetation has helped sustain people in the surrounding areas of the Yangtze river since the floods have been minimized to a greater extent (Luk & Whitney 1993). It has also enhanced economic development in the area since people are not highly displaced hence they are able to develop their areas without destruction of their properties by floods.

Industry, Agriculture and Floods

The dam has a crucial role that is to prevent and control flooding, a major problem of the Yangtze seasonal river. Many people reside downstream in the important cities such as Nanjing, Shanghai and Wuhan located at the border of the Yangtze river. Besides the Yangtze river, there are ample farmland and industrial area that is vital to China (Hong 2004). During the rainy seasons, the dam captures flood water and prevents flooding in the downstream area of the dam. The water captured in the dam’s reservoir in the times of floods is crucial during the dry spell since it is used in farming activities. The water in the reservoirs is mostly used in irrigation and various industries. The water is distributed to the downstream areas meaning a reduction of water in the upstream for the preparation of the rainy period. The water helps in powering the Gezhouba dam located at the downstream (Isaacs et al. 2000). The dam has contributed largely to the community in times of dry spells since the water sustains the agricultural sector in terms of irrigation and the industrial sector. China has unstable rainfall pattern, and, therefore, the dam provides water for the irrigation sector. The utilization of irrigation helps the China government to balance food prices and maintain agricultural income high enough. It also helps improve the shipping conditions that would, otherwise, have been affected due to lack of water (Isaacs et al. 2000).

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The Navigation of the Dam

The Golden Waterway is the other name of river Yangtze. The name implies the importance of the river in the transport system. The dam improves the facilities used in navigation and since the river is made deeper and wide, and this helps many ships to explore the interior, and thereby increasing the shipping capacity. As a result, economic development and trade have been boosted in the region (Qing et al 1998). The dam is very crucial in the navigation sector; it improves the welfare of the society through economic development and trade in the interior parts of the country and also abroad.

Summary of the Outcomes

The Three Gorges Dam Project is sustainable due to its greater contribution in the reduction of coal burning and that it releases little GHGs. The old way of burning coal to produce energy was replaced by the hydroelectric energy from the dam (Qing et al. 1998). The dam is sustainable since it provides electricity to China and can be used for the generation of energy in the future. The dam also has a crucial role in controlling floods that have led to the loss of many lives and huge economic losses. The dam is also sustainable since it promotes trade through the shipping transport that helps in the distribution of goods to the interior parts of China. The government of China has a responsibility to provide enough manpower and resources to prevent floods that affect the residents in the downstream areas of the dam (Barber & Ryder 1993).


The dam main purpose is the supply of hydroelectric energy that is secure and renewable. It helps solve electricity shortfalls but does not lessen the importation of crude oil. Therefore, the dam does not foster energy security in China. In terms of sustainable progress, the dam is a multifarious issue. The dam project is sustainable since it benefits the community through its generation of electricity and also has recurrent benefits to the generations in the future. Moreover, the energy generated in the dam is renewable, but it does not provide energy security to China and thereby does not give absolute sustainability (Kite 2011). The dam plays a crucial role in increasing the developments in China since it provides huge amounts of electricity used in industries, such as manufacturing and processing industries that require electricity. The Three Gorges Dam project has many positive impacts. If there is the elimination of the big dam, there could be no greater environmental and social consequences if small dams produced hydroelectric energy. The dam will provide greater energy efficiency in the future, and this will boost security in the energy sector and sustainability (Kite 2011).

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