Oct 31 - Nov 6, 2011

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest electricity-producing plant in the world and sits on the famous Yangtze River near Sandouping in the Hubei province in China. The dam stretches two km across the river and a massive 180 m tall making it by far the worldís largest ever-built reservoir.

The dam has been at the centre of controversy right from the beginning with a range of advantages and disadvantages surrounding its construction.

One of the major reasons for constructing the dam was to reduce the flood danger, which has plagued the areas bordering the river. While reducing potential floods, it has increased the capacity of the river allowing six times the amount of barges along the river. This increase has in turn reduced carbon dioxide emissions by replacing road transport with water transport, all while generating electricity.

On the flipside, and a rather large one, the construction of the dam has caused much destruction of the neighboring land while displacing a record numbers of people tallying over a million. The project flooded a total of 13 cities and well over 1,000 towns and villages including obliterating special archaeological and cultural areas.

The Three Gorges Dam can be in fact viewed as a disaster as it continues to cause devastating ecological changes to the surrounding land including landslide risks, erosion, and deforestation.

Even with all the destruction and devastation that has resulted from the dam's destruction, the model has been replicated throughout China and even internationally.

With all the controversy surrounding the project, some just prefer to see it with their own eyes and make their own judgment. One can easily visit the dam and get great views from the Jar Hill Observation Platform, where there is also a museum that relates to visitors construction process from start till end.

Made of concrete, the dam is 2,335 m (7,661 ft) long, and the level of the dam top is 185 metres (607 ft) above sea level. The project used 27,200,000 cubic metres of concrete (mainly for the dam wall), 463,000 tonnes of steel (enough to build 63 Eiffel Towers) and moved about 102,600,000 cubic metres of earth.

The concrete dam wall is 181 metres (594 ft) high above the rock basis. When the water level is at its maximum of 175 metres (574 ft) above sea level 110 metres (361 ft) higher than the river level downstream, the dam reservoir is on average about 660 kilometers (410 mi) in length and 1.12 kilometers (0.70 mi) in width. It contains 39.3 km3 (31,900,000 acre. ft.) of water and has a total surface area of 1,045 km2.

On completion, the reservoir flooded a total area of 632 km2 of land, compared to the 1,350 km2 of reservoir created by the Itaipu Dam.

China Three Gorges Corporation told Xinhua "the Three Gorges Dam provides huge benefits to society and economy in terms of its functions in flood control, drought prevention, clean energy and navigation."

"The dam guards against floods for the middle and lower Yangtze River regions and has helped alleviate the region's current drought - the worst in 50 years," said the corporation chairman Cao Guangjing.

Cao cited a social responsibility report, the first of its kind issued by the company.

According to the report, the dam has released more than 20 billion cubic meters of water downstream this year in an effort to raise water levels and ease drought.

In 2010, more than 26 billion cubic meters of water was held back in the reservoir, which helped enhance flood control capacity of the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River, it said.

In addition, the dam, the world's largest hydropower project, provided 84.37 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity last year, which helped avoid the burning of 28.94 million tons of standard coal, or the emission of 70.66 million tons of carbon dioxide, said the report.

The electricity produced by its 32 main generators is sufficient to light up Boston, New York and Washington D.C. combined with.

Significant debate has surrounded the Yangtze River dam project for decades, throughout the proposal phase and its subsequent construction.

The project has been a dream for generations and will be one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by humankind. This great dam, the largest of its kind in the world, will provide China with tremendous power generation and flood control services. It was in 1992 that the Chinese government finally gave the go ahead for the scheme, some seventy years after Dr. Sun Yet-Sen, pioneer of the Chinese democratic revolution, first proposed the idea.

The dam site is 27 miles upstream from Yichang City proper, at Sandouping Town, 38km upstream from the Gezhouba Dam Lock, inside the third of the Three Gorges. It is planned to be by far the largest hydroelectric project in the world.

Possessing comprehensive utilization benefits mainly for flood control, power generation and navigation improvement. It will be a vital important and backbone project in harnessing and developing of the Yangtze River.

Demolition experts used some 200 tons (181 metric tons) of explosives to destroy the final Three Gorges cofferdam-a temporary construction that had allowed builders to finish the dam's massive main wall. The blast created some 243,278 cubic yards (186,000 cubic meters) of concrete rubble.

Dam First Proposed in 1919

Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, first suggested a dam on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei Province. He believed the structure could protect river communities from deadly floods.

Communist leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) also supported the concept, but construction didn't begin until 1993, 17 years after Mao's death.

Chinese state media reports that over a hundred workers died during the lengthy construction project.

The Three Gorges plan includes compensation for the dispossessed, such as payments and new homes and jobs. But, these efforts have been plagued by widespread local corruption and complaints that funds aren't reaching the intended recipients.

Dozens of architectural and cultural sites will also disappear under the reservoir. Among the most notable are relics of the ancient Ba people, who lived in the region some 4,000 years ago.

China already boasts the world's largest number of dams-86,000 and counting. The debate over where and how others are built could have huge consequences for China's rivers and beyond.