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Back to the Future: Harnessing the Power of the Yangtze River [Slide Show]

A trip down the Yangtze River—home of the world's largest hydroelectric dam—offers a glimpse into China's past and future

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GREAT MIGRATION:

The rising waters have submerged the homes or forced the relocation of more than 1.2 million people to date, such as those of this abandoned riverside town that will disappear beneath the waters when the dam reaches its maximum capacity.....[ More ]

RIVER RISE:

The dam raises water levels 410 miles (660 kilometers) behind it, and it has yet to reach its highest possible heights of 575 feet (175 meters). The water levels rise and fall with the seasons, exposing previously submerged land and spreading disease.....[ More ]

SUNNY ALTERNATIVE:

Even in the shadow of the great hydroelectric dam, it makes sense to power some functions with renewable resources, such as the photovoltaic panels on this monitoring station.....[ More ]

RIVER POWER:

The Three Gorges dam can produce 84.7 terawatt-hours of electricity per year--the equivalent of burning 31 million metric tons of coal but with less greenhouse gas and other pollution.....[ More ]

DAMMED RIVER:

The Three Gorges dam spans the entire river way--imagine a dam across the Mississippi just above Memphis backing up water to St. Louis and beyond--holding back more than 10 trillion gallons (38 trillion liters) of water to prevent flooding downriver, generate electricity and enhance shipping.....[ More ]

COAL POWER:

Burning coal sullies the air along the Yangtze, as an aging industrial infrastructure continues to pump out pollution--and products for the global market.....[ More ]

COAL CHUTE:

One of the primary goods shipped on the river is coal to fuel the factories, power plants and other industrial boilers powering China's economic development.....[ More ]

ECONOMIC ARTERY:

The Yangtze River is the premier route for goods to travel from factories in the interior to the coast or vice versa--a shipping conduit that has been improved by the Three Gorges Dam's deepening of the waterway.....[ More ]

RIVER HIGHWAY:

Aging Russian diesel-powered hydrofoils still provide the bulk of transport between Chongqing and cities downriver. It takes eight hours to travel the 660 kilometers (410 miles) of jade green water from Chongqing to Yichang near the Three Gorges Dam.....[ More ]

SHIPPING NEWS:

The Yangtze becomes itself--Chang Jiang, or Long River--when it meets the Jialing River in Chongqing, a major inland port city that produces most of the nation's motorcycles, among other industrial goods.....[ More ]

THE GREAT BEND:

Unlike the three other rivers that flow through the Yunnan Province in western China, the Yangtze River--at this point in its course called the Jinsha Jiang, or Golden Sand River--turns east and flows to the sea at Shanghai.....[ More ]

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