River management in an emerging country

Edexcel iGCSE > River Environments > River management in an emerging country: China’s Three Gorges Dam

China’s Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam, located on the Yangtze River, is the largest multipurpose river management structure globally. The dam, over 2 km long and 100m high, was finished in 2009, forming a lake over 600 km long behind it. The Yangtze basin, home to 400 million people and providing 66% of China’s rice, covers 1.8 million km2 and releases 24,000 m’/second of water annually.

The Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam

The project boasts several benefits:

  • Flood management, protecting 10 million downstream residents in cities like Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai from the river’s seasonal floods.
  • A massive electricity generation capacity of 22,500 MW, primarily powering Shanghai and Chongqing, making it the world’s largest power station.
  • Incorporation of locks for navigation, promoting shipping above the dam and boosting tourism with the growth of cruise ships on the river.
  • During dry spells, ensure downstream water supply for agricultural, industrial, and domestic uses.

However, the dam has also attracted criticism for several reasons:

  • Over 1.25 million people were displaced to make space for the dam and lake.
  • The dam sits in an earthquake-prone region, where landslides occur frequently.
  • The dam’s silt trapping reduces the reservoir’s capacity and the downstream farmland’s fertility over time.
  • The dam disrupts aquatic ecosystems.


  • The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world’s largest river management scheme, provides flood control, powers cities, promotes tourism and shipping, and supplements water supply.

  • Over 1.25 million people were displaced due to the dam’s construction.

  • The dam’s location in an earthquake-prone region leads to frequent landslides.

  • Silt trapping by the dam reduces reservoir capacity and downstream farmland fertility and disrupts aquatic life.

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