The Three Gorges is a series of cliff-lined sections of the Long River (Changjiang in Mandarin), which is often confused for the Yellow River. These are the two main rivers of China, both are quite long and are major East-West transportation routes for grain, agricultural products, pale devil tourists, and the like.

The Long River is normally fairly placid, at the Three Gorges the narrow cliffs funnel the water into furious, twisting rapids. The Three Gorges have some majestic scenery, they make up 125 miles of the river, from Chongqing in Sichuan to Hubei province in the center of China.

The shortest gorge is the most visually spectacular, known as the Windbox to foreigners, Qutang Gorge to us. The cliffs soar to heights of 4000 feet on both sides of the narrow rapids, usually with a light mist covering the trees growing out the side. A grand sight indeed, but it is fairly dangerous in high waters, the rocks smash rafts and boats into bits.

For an lofty price, grizzled old boatmen can take you on a tour on a raft, they know every rock and eddy in the entire length of river. For the weak-hearted, there are smallish ferries and yachts. Various caves along the way make for good exploration, there are also temples and pagodas for the devout.

A project to dam the gorges is in progress now, it will relocate several thousand people (contrary to Western media myth, relocated peasants get plenty of compensation), raise the water level a bit, but the Three Gorges remain tourist-fit. When completed, it will provide enough electricity for the entire Sichuan region, about 150 million Chinese. Several environmental extremists such as Greenpeace have camped out at the construction sites. The Chinese authorities do not have to go through the nice little procedures as Western police, the protestors were arrested en masse and expelled from China, making for more bad PR, but at this point, China does not care a bit.

>A project to dam the gorges is in progress now, it will (...) raise the water level a bit,

135 meters over the sea level. Quite a bit, yes.

Building huge reservoirs to generate electricity or to increase irrigation coverage or flooding control is a distincitve feature of states with strong governments. We little Frenchies had the Tignes "Barrage", which involved the drowning of a village and the relocation of its inhabitants. The Turks are still pretty much in it too, covering their southeastern lands (see Kurdistan - having no interest in experiencing DMan's flaming talents I won't even try to draw an analogy between Kurds and Tibetans), which led to the destruction of archeological treasures such as incredibly well conserved Roman cities (see Pompei). Let's mention the Aswan dam as well, which would have destroyed the magnificient Abu Simbel temple if some Europeans oranisations/government had not decided to dismantle it and rebuild it on a safe area.

The 3 gorges dam is the most ambitious project of this kind to date, and although its positive impact is unquestionable, by any standard it will probably be the most damaging. I won't even bother mentioning the archeological disaster (this zone has been a center of Chinese civilisation for several millenia). I'll simply state the most likely outcome for the inhabitants: something between 1 and 2 million people will be expelled and relocated, sometimes in disastrous conditions (uncultivable lands, unemployment-plagued cities) by corrupt bureaucrats who will then falsify reports and figures to please their superiors (which is quite an understandable behaviour given the, say, intense pressure they are under).

DMan, we like you, but your tendency to fall into the Politically incorrect trap ("Politically correct media say this and that, ergo I must always say the exact opposite in order to look clever and independant") sometimes gets a little bit unnerving.

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