Ever since approval was passed by China's National People's Congress 15 years ago, the Three Gorges Dam has been a controversial project. While the Chinese government insisted untold lives would be saved (claiming that in the last century alone, more than 300,000 have drowned due to floods in the Yangtze) and improved by the hydroelectric dam, critics lambasted the project for the potential social and environmental devastation. Since ground breaking in 1994, well over a million residents have been forced to resettle, while everything from toxic drinking water to erosion and earthquakes has been attributed to the construction.
Despite the protests and charges of corruption, the dam is still slated for completion by 2009. When the last switch is flicked, it will be the largest generator of electricity in the world. Each year, the power churned out by its 26 turbines will be equivalent to that produced by 40 millions tons of coal or 18 nuclear power plants. At working capacity, one-ninth of China's energy will come from the dam. Whether the benefits will outweigh the costs, though, has yet to be seen.
Just one day after the dam made news for linking the first of 12 right bank turbine generators to China's national power grid, NASA released a film of the construction over the last 20 years. Piecing together satellite images, the movie provides just a hint of the changes the dam has triggered thus far. Already, scientists are finding evidence that links changes in rainfall and ground temperature dozens of miles from the river to its damming.—Abby Seiff
Link - NASA