The Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, China. The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest capacity hydroelectric power station with a total generating capacity of 18,200 MW.As well as producing electricity, the dam increases the Yangtze River's shipping capacity, and reduces the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space.

The Chinese government regards the project as a historic engineering, social and economic success, with the design of state-of-the-art large turbines,and a move toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions.However, the dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes,

According to the National Development and Reform Commission of China, 366 grams of coal would produce 1 kWh of electricity during 2006. At full power, Three Gorges reduces coal consumption by 31 million tonnes per year, avoiding 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, millions of tonnes of dust, one million tonnes of sulphur dioxide, 370,000 tonnes of nitric oxide, 10,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide, and a significant amount of mercury. Hydropower saves the energy needed to mine, wash, and transport the coal from northern China.

From 2003 to 2007, power production equaled that of 84 million tonnes of standard coal, reducing carbon dioxide by 190 million tons, sulphur dioxide by 2.29 million tonnes, and nitrogen oxides by 980,000 tonnes.The dam increased the Yangtze's barge capacity sixfold, reducing carbon dioxide emission by 630,000 tonnes. From 2004 to 2007 a total of 198 million tonnes of goods passed through the ship locks. Compared to using trucking, barges reduced carbon dioxide emission by ten million tonnes and lowered costs 25%.

The dam catalyzed improved upstream wastewater treatment around the large city of Chongqing and its suburban areas. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as of April 2007 more than 50 new plants could treat 1.84 million tonnes per day, 65% of the total need. About 32 landfills were added, which could handle 7,664.5 tonnes of solid waste every day.  Over one billion tons of wastewater are released annually into the river.

The Three Gorges area currently has 10% forestation, down from 20% in the 1950s. The FAO's research suggests that the Asia-Pacific region will, overall, gain about 6,000 square km of forest in 2008. That is quite a turnaround from the 13,000 square km net loss of forest each year in the 1990s. The main reason is China's huge reforestation effort. This accelerated after terrible floods in 1998 convinced the government that it must restore tree cover, especially in the mighty Yangtze's basin upstream of the Three Gorges Dam.


Carbon Footprint Calculator