China celebrates completion of Three Gorges Dam

China completed construction May 20 of the giant Three Gorges Dam wall, a milestone in the world’s largest hydroelectric project which is also designed to tame the flood-prone Yangtze river.

Workers and officials marked the completion of the massive dam in a ceremony broadcast live on state television. A brass band played and confetti rained over the site after workers poured the last batch of concrete.

In contrast to the launch of work on the dam in 1997, attended by both then-President Jiang Zemin and then-Premier Li Peng, no top officials attended the event. State media praised the development company’s decision to forgo spending more than 1 million renminbi (US$125,000) on the ceremony and opt instead for a simpler one.

Although construction of the dam’s main span is now complete, officials stressed that much work remains.

“We still have a long way to go and cannot become self-satisfied or relax our efforts in the least,” General Manager Li Yongan of the Three Gorges Project Development Corp., said at the ceremony. “We need to continue to put quality and safety first.”

To that end, the company has asked two German engineering firms to help design a hoist mechanism to lift ships, Xinhua news agency reported. Xinhua said this would be the first part of the project’s design for which China has enlisted foreign help, marking a departure from relying only on homegrown designs.

The main project is expected to be complete in 2009, when the reservoir will reach its full level and 26 turbines will come on line, bringing total generating capacity to 18,200 MW. Additionally, the developer plans to boost capacity to 22,400 MW by adding another six, underground, generators.

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