China's Three Gorges Dam, by the Numbers

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
June 9, 2006

Using enough explosives to level 400 ten-story buildings, China demolished the last barrier holding back the mighty Yangtze River from the Three Gorges Dam on Tuesday, according to government- controlled media.

At 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers) long, Three Gorges is one of the world's largest dams, and one of the most controversial public works in modern times.

200 Tons of Explosives

Demolition experts used some 200 tons (181 metric tons) of explosives to destroy the final Three Gorges cofferdam—a temporary construction that had allowed builders to finish the dam's massive main wall.

The blast created some 243,278 cubic yards (186,000 cubic meters) of concrete rubble.

The main dam's construction was completed last month amid much fanfare.

"This is the grandest project the Chinese people have undertaken in thousands of years," Li Yongan, general manager of the Three Gorges Corporation, told the London Times on May 20.

At its peak the construction team numbered some 26,000 Chinese and foreign employees.

(Get China maps, facts, photos, music, and more.)

Dam First Proposed in 1919

Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, first suggested a dam on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei Province. He believed the structure could protect river communities from deadly floods.

Communist leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) also supported the concept, but construction didn't begin until 1993, 17 years after Mao's death.

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