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Grand dreams of the mighty Yangzi River
July 19, 2000

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Okay, so the Yangzi River isn't quite as clear as I imagine it to be, but I can still dream, can't I?
When I think of the Yangzi River, I have dreams of sailing peacefully along on a long, narrow wooden boat. I imagine the sun's warm rays shining down on my face as I look out at the tall, majestic cliffs hanging over both sides of the river. In my dreams, I hear birds chirping off in the distance and the water rushing gently by my boat.

Well, the Chinese government, likewise, has its own dreams about the Yangzi River, and their dream is to build something really big on it. They dream of using it to generate electrical power to improve the lives of the people in China.

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So, they have started to build a 600-foot tall, 1.2-mile wide dam across the Yangzi River in Hubei province. Its name is the Three Gorges Dam, named after a 120-mile long region containing some of the most beautiful scenery along the Yangzi, and when completed, it will be the largest reservoir in the world.

We arrived at the construction site at about 6 o'clock in the evening, close to sunset, and the area was still full of activity. Truck after truck drove by, raising clouds of dust into the air and bringing more and more supplies to feed the hungry and growing dam. After seeing the site, the highway, and the city, there was no question in my head that something very big is going on here.

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Here is the view downstream from the construction site that shows the natural scenery of the Yangzi River in this region
The Three Gorges Dam will create a 360-mile long reservoir behind it that will completely cover the towns, the farmland, and the cultural sites now along the river's shores. There will be close to 2 million people driven from their homes, forced to leave their farmlands, and move to new regions. Many historical sites will be lost forever.

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larger view
My dream come true!  Just me and my wooden boat sailing peacefully by some majestic gorges on the Yangzi River. Isn't it beautiful?
Will the Three Gorges Dam make China's dream of a greater, safer, and more modern China come true? What will the Chinese people have to give up in order for that to happen? For now, no one can know for sure. What is certain, though, is that the beautiful region of the Three Gorges as we now know it will not be there forever. So that doesn't leave me with much time to fulfill my dream of sailing peacefully down the Yangzi in my little wooden boat.


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