China nears completion of massive Three Gorges Dam, plots more dam-building

Construction of the world’s largest hydroelectric dam — the Three Gorges Dam in China — may be completed as soon as May 20, nine months ahead of schedule. The $22 billion dam on the Yangtze River will eventually flood the homes of some 1.3 million people. Evacuees worry they’ll be placed in villages with no farmland or jobs. Perhaps they could become dam tour guides — Three Gorges has become a popular tourist site, attracting 220,000 gawkers so far this year. While construction on the dam is likely to finish this month, it won’t be fully operational until 2009. By then, construction may have started upriver on an even taller dam across Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest river gorges, famous for its beauty. That dam could displace up to 100,000 people, many of them ethnic minorities living in their ancestral homeland. Environmentalists are outraged, and likely will be for a while — 11 more dams are planned upriver from the Three Gorges.