Construction of an underwater museum housing the world's oldest hydrologic inscriptions detailing the Yangtze River's water levels in the reservoir of the Three Gorges Project will start early next year.
The underwater museum is the brainchild of Chinese scientist Ge Xiurun, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The inscriptions dating back 1,200 years, appear on a 1,600 meter by 16 meter horizontal stone girder commonly known as Baiheliang which records the history of the river's levels.
An original protection plan expected that when the massive water control project was being built on the river's middle reaches; the inscribed girder would be buried naturally by silting at the bottom of the reservoir formed behind the dam.
However, Ge suggested it should be possible to build an underwater museum at the middle of the girder where the inscriptions are concentrated. Underwater lighting will be installed so visitors can view the inscriptions via glass windows.
Ge explained the top of the underwater museum would be submerged when the water level was high and would stand above the water surface when the level was low.
According to the academician, details of the design to protect the pillar are fixed and have been approved by the authorities.
Ge is confident the major part of the underwater museum will be finished during two dry seasons.
The Three Gorges Project, situated near Yichang in central China's Hubei Province, comprises 26 generating units, each with a 700,000-kilowatt capacity.
The first group of four units will be installed and begin generating power in 2003. The entire project will be finished by 2009. On completion, it will be the world's largest hydropower project with a total capacity of 18.2 million kilowatts and an annual output of 84.68 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2002)