Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ryan Pyle Blog: Three Gorges Dam Policy

I recently returned from the Three Gorges Dam in Central China. The dam is perhaps the most talked about dam in the history of dams. Which is why I thought I would share some of these findings with you.

First of all the dam is huge.I don't want to bore you with monster statistics, but the dam is setting records in almost every category there is for dam building, dam use and dam electrical production. It's turbines are the biggest, it's reservoir is the longest, it's daily electrical output is the most of any other dam in the world. The Three Gorges Dam, however environmentally damaging, is an impressive engineering accomplishment.

Most of all that I already knew. What I didn't know is an interesting pice of policy about the dam, and that is that all the ships that go through the dam must be empty. Meaning that boats need to empty there cargo before entering the locks. To my knowledge this is the only dam in the world that has this policy.

The reason for this policy is that the regulators are afraid of possible explosions occurring near the dam, the bottom line is that the Chinese are paranoid about domestic terrorism. And this fear may be valid, a lot of people who live in China are not necessarily the most happy people in the world, but that doesn't mean they maintain the capability to blow up a dam. But then no body thought airplanes would be used to bring down the World Trade Centers.

So all day and all night boats unload there cargo, pass through the locks and re-load there cargo on the other side. Trucks then race through villages at all hours transporting the boat cargo back and forth; is it a waste or the future of dam security?

Boat operators don't seem to mind too much. Some say that they don't like the delays but in the end, for those traveling up stream, the trip lasts about the same amount of time, because once they pass through the dam they can usually make up a lot of time because they don't have to fight the currant any longer. For those traveling down stream, it can be a significant delay.

Well that's all I have for today. A bit of Chinese policy to chew on.

Ryan Pyle
Skype: ryanpyle

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Ryan Pyle