The spectacular natural scenery along both sides of China's longest river, the Yangtze, at the Three Gorges will remain unchanged after the massive Three Gorges Dam Project is completed in 2009, experts claim.
Construction of the mammoth project began in 1993 and is expected to be completed in three phases.
The first phase was carried out from 1993 to 1997 when the mainstream of the Yangtze was dammed at the Three Gorges.
The second phase is scheduled to be completed between 1998 and 2003 when the Three Gorges Reservoir begins storing water and the first group of power units become operational. The third phase will be built from 2004 to 2009 when all the power units begin generating electricity.
Experts said water levels in the reservoir after the first and second phase will have little impact on scenic spots along both sides of the Three Gorges.
The water level in the reservoir after the third phase will affect the original scenic sights to some extent, but is expected to add to the beauty of the Three Gorges, they claim.
The mainstream of the Yangtze at the Three Gorges will be blocked for the second time in November.
Many people worry that the rising water level might result in the disappearance of original scenic sights.
When the scheduled damming comes to an end next June, the water level in the Three Gorges Reservoir is expected to rise to 135 metres from the current 66 metres, and the submerged rocks and dangerous shoals would be greatly reduced in this section.
The water level in the Three Gorges Reservoir will finally reach 175 metres in 20 to 30 years after the project is completed in 2009, according to experts.
Li Yusheng, a senior engineer with the Chongqing Nanjiang Hydrology and Geology Team, has been engaged in hydrological and geological studies at the Three Gorges area for many years.
Li's research shows that, even if the water level in the reservoir rises to 175 metres, only 39 scenic spots, or 13 per cent of the total in the reservoir area, will be flooded.
An investigation jointly carried out by the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee and Tsinghua University shows that unique scenes in the Three Gorges area, featuring high, steep and spectacular mountains, will remain unchanged after the second damming, especially after 2003, the year when the reservoir begins storing water.
Water depth in the reservoir will be 10 to 110 metres above the current level on average after 2009, compared with mountains on both sides of the Yangtze at the Three Gorges section.
After the reservoir begins storing water in 2003, water levels at the Three Gorges - namely Qutang, Wuxia and Xiling Gorges - are to rise by only nine, 16 and 46 metres respectively.
But mountains on both sides of the gorges are 1,000 to 1,500 metres high.
Experts say, with the completion of the Three Gorges Project, some new scenic sights will emerge in the area, presenting a brand new Three Gorges to visitors.
( China Daily July 5, 2002 )