IOM3(HK) – 2016 Overseas Trip – The Three Gorges Dam and Exploring from Yichang to Wuhan in Mainland China

Hong Kong Branch
6 Dec 2016

Following the success of technical seminar on “The Three Gorges Project – An Overview” given by Professor LEE Chack Fan on 10 September 2016, the Hong Kong Branch of IOM3 successfully organized an overseas trip to this very prestigious hydropower project – the Three Gorges Dam. The event was successfully held from 13 to 16 October 2016, which was a four day trip consisting of one of the first group university with strong competitive in geology and geological engineering in China, famous ancient city, the largest “city-lake” in China and prestigious tower with combination of natural scenery and cultural view, with 16 participants attended.

Day 1 – Taking high-speed rail train from Shenzhen to Yichang
The Three Gorges Dam is located in Yichang, the second largest city in Hubei Province, around 1,500 km away from Hong Kong. For such a long distance, taking high-speed rail train was the most economical and time-saving way. Meanwhile, this would also provide a good chance for many of the participants to experience China’s high-speed rail train for the first time. With the exciting mood to start this trip, we arrived at the Shenzhen North Railway Station to take the train.


Group Photo Taken at Shenzhen North Railway Station before Departure


The train travelled with the maximum speed of over 300 km/h and was the epitome of the fast development of the world’s longest high-speed rail network with over 20,000 km as of now. The space inside the train compartment was enough for the participants to be seated comfortably with adjustable seats. There was almost no perceivable vibration during running of the train. The power of engineering truly delivered a better world. After seven hours journey, we arrived in Yichang, getting ready for the anticipated exploration of the Three Gorges Dam on the next day.

Day 2 – The Three Gorges Dam – The Gezhou Dam – Jingzhou Ancient City

In the early morning, upon arrival of the Three Gorges Dam, the representative from China Three Gorges Corporation, Ms Zhang Fang (張芳) guided us from the hotel to the Three Gorges Exhibition Centre from the hotel.  After arrival of the Three Gorges Exhibition Centre first, all participants watched a short movie briefing the development history of the Three Gorges Dam. The prototype of this large dam was originally envisioned by Mr SUN Yat-sen in 1918. After several twists and turns, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam finally started on 14 December 1994. In 2012, it came into full operation. The docent of the exhibition centre brought us to the model of the Three Gorges Dam and explained to us that there were mainly three candidate construction sites for the dam in the beginning of the design. One of the sites, Sandouping, was chosen in the end because of its open flat terrain, hard granite geological condition underground, low seismic intensity. What’s more, an island called Zhongbao Island in this area divided the Yangtze River into two parts with the width of 900 m and 300 m respectively, which made it possible to carry out the stage construction of such a big project. 


The Model of the Three Gorges Dam


Participants were advised that flood control, electricity generation and river shipping were the three main functions of the dam. Flood control was considered as the primary function during design since the flood in the Yangtze River Basin had been threatening millions of people’s lives over the past thousands of years. The reservoir of the dam can store 22 cubic kilometres of flood water, which has reduced the flooding frequency from once every ten years to once every one hundred years. Apart from its huge flood storage capacity, this dam is the largest capacity hydro power station in the world generating 22,500 MW of electricity in total with 34 generators. In 2015, it provided about 1.6 % of the electric power consumption in China. Its power distribution and transmission range covers almost half of the territory of China, mainly in the east.


Power Distribution and Transmission Range Marked within the Circles


Participants then came to the model of double-line five-stage ship locks. Participants were advised that the installation of the ship locks can facilitate the river shipping to be safer, more efficient and economical. The maximum vessel size could be up to 10,000 tons with the average transit time of about four hours.


The Double-line Five-stage Ship Locks


One more thing that interested the participants was the ship lift that had just undergone its first trial operation in 18 September 2016. It is expected to reduce the ship transit time to around 40 minutes to transit a ship with the maximum ship tonnage of 3,000.


The Front View of Ship Lift


Participants Visiting the Three Gorges Project Exhibition Centre


Thanks to the coordination of Professor C. F. Lee (Member of Chinese Academy of Engineering and Chancellor of the Chu Hai College of Higher Education) and IOM3(HK) Council Member Mr. Tim Leung with the China Three Gorges Corporation, participants were specially treated with an exceptional privilege to be allowed the entry of the hydropower generator unit and the outside view of central control room of hydropower station which people could seldom be allowed to visit. Participants were accompanied by a senior management staff who made the overview of the station and its current operational status. Participants had a better understanding of the water level upstream can be adjusted by the dam from 145 m to 175 m for flood control in different seasons of the year. In wet season, the reservoir stores the flood water upstream and in dry season it discharges the stored flood water to mitigate the drought and water shortage downstream. Most of you may not know that the electricity generated on that day was amazingly worth 50 million RMB which in fact was just around half of the station’s capacity. The participant learnt how the Three Gorges Dam dealt with sedimentation of the river, which the key problem was solved by a method of storing the clear water and discharging the muddy water (“蓄清排渾”) and was based on the practical experience summarized by many experts and engineers specialized in sedimentation. In detail, it is observed that the upstream sediment and water are in very unstable proportion within a year, by making use of which the dam discharged the muddy water to the river downstream by keeping the water level at 145 m at the time when muddy water dominates in the flood season and the dam started to store water to the water level of 175 m when the water gets clearer. Thus the Three Gorges Dam can be maintained in good state of operation for many years. 


Group Photo Taken in the Three Gorges Dam Hydropower Generator Unit


Group Photo Taken at the Three Gorges Left Bank Power Station


Group Photo taken in Front of the Three Gorges Dam


Mr. Tim Leung Presenting Souvenir to Ms Zhang Fang (張芳小姐), the Representative of China Three Gorges Corporation


Following the visit to the Three Gorges Dam, participants visited Gezhou Dam Park from which the Gezhou Dam could be seen from a distance. The Gezhou Dam project started in 1970 and finished in 1988 with 2,715 MW of capacity, 2606.5 m long and 47 m high. It is the first large-scale dam project on the Yangtze River. There are 3 ship locks installed among which the ship lock No. 2 can allow the passage of ship of over 10,000 tons within around 1 hour. The destinies of the Gezhou Dam and the Three Gorges Dam projects are deeply bound together. They both belong to China Yangtze Power Co., Ltd. The Gezhou Dam partially supported the Three Gorges Dam project by establishing construction fund from its power generation profits and providing electrical supply, which created good pre-condition for the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and lifted the efficiency and then in return lowered the cost and reduced the construction period.


Overlook View of Ship Locks from the Gezhou Dam Park


Then we travelled to Jingzhou Ancient City located between Yichang and Wuhan. Jingzhou, with a history of more than 2,600 years, is the cradle of Chu Culture and one of the primary places of the Three Kingdoms Culture. Chu Culture is the cultural and spiritual heritage left by people who lived in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and is part of the main body of Chinese Culture. Jingzhou was so strategically important since ancient times because of its geographical location and economical condition that the three kingdoms, Cao Wei (曹魏), Shu Han (蜀漢) and Dong Wu (東吳), tried to occupy it as their base to realize their military and political ambition. After going around the ancient city along its moat which was 10,500 m long, 30 m wide and 4 m deep, we went up to the ancient city’s defensive wall to follow the trace of history of this main battlefield of Red Cliff Battle during the Three Kingdoms period. The bricks of the wall were very firm and bore engraved words that indicated the name of the brick producer were still clear to identify. Our guide reminded us that these words served as a function of quality supervision. If the bricks were poorly made, the authority could track and punish the related producers. From this perspective, construction supervision is not a new thing.


The Ancient City of Jingzhou


Day 3 – China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) - the Donghu Ting Tao Scenic Area – Yangtze Riverbank at Hankou

The Three Gorges Research Centre for Geo-hazards in China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) was first visited by the participants in the morning of this day. Professor Zhou Hanwen warmly welcomed us and made a wonderful presentation to introduce the China University of Geosciences, the operation and international cooperation of the Three Gorges research centre and its geographical field practice and research bases adjacent to the Three Gorges Dam area. The development of the Three Gorges Dam has a huge impact on the nation’s environment, economy and security, but this project has been faced with the danger of geo-hazards especially landslide. The Three Gorges area is characterized with high mountains and deep valleys and the water level here rose 100 m after the completion of the dam project, which posed a big engineering challenge to the stability of slopes and reservoir bank. Reliable and advanced technical solutions needed to be brought forward by professionals to tackle these issues. Under such circumstance, the research centre was established as the integrative research platform by the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2008 to undertake the research of geo-hazards prediction and control by combining the resources of multiple geological and engineering disciplines in the university. In addition to conducting studies to help prevent geo-hazards, the hydrogeological complexity in the Three Gorges Dam area also provided the unique chance and place for geological field training, practice and observation on geo-hazards. The future success over geo-hazards in the Three Gorges Dam area was also considered to be taken as a good example for similar geological features in other projects to be developed. The need for engineering solution and the academic research and training perfectly matched through the bridge of the Three Gorges Dam Research Centre, which was quite an impressive way to realize the combination of practice, research and teaching to all of the participants. The presentation ended with a vivid discussion between Professor Zhou and the participants on the topics including the geo-hazard monitoring and observational equipment and method and so forth. 


Professor ZHOU Hanwen (L), Deputy Director of Three Gorges Research Center for Geo-Hazards, of China University of Geosciences, introducing the China University of Geosciences to participants


Mr. Tim Leung (R) Presenting Souvenir to Professor ZHOU Hanwen (周漢文教授), Deputy Director of Three Gorges Research Center for Geo-Hazards, of China University of Geosciences


Group Photo taken at Three Gorges Research Center for Geo-hazards, Ministry of Education


Participants Visiting China University of Geosciences


With the kind company of the professor, we appreciated the beautiful scenery inside the university and then visited the Yifu Museum of China University of Geosciences. The museum possesses a collection of more than 30,000 pieces of exhibits including dinosaur fossils, rare mineral specimens and precious stones. The docent led us to go through the museum collections in the order of five themes: Mystery of the Earth, Life Origin and Evolution, Minerals and Rocks, Precious Stones and Jewelry, and Ore Resources. Participants were very curious about the giant Crinoid fossil as large as 15 square metres at the entrance of the hall of fossils, doubting whether it was real and it belonged to plant or animal. The docent intended to surprise us and humorously told us she would reveal the truth at later time when we left the museum. What also fascinated us was the grotesque shape of the Stibnite druse that was found in Jiangxi Province and ranked the first on its size in the world. In appearance, it seemed to be from some exoplanet world in science fictions. Addicted to the magic of nature, we left the museum with the answer that the Crinoid was a kind of invertebrate animal though it resembled the plant very much and this fossil was the largest complete one all over the world and was 230 million years old.

 The Crinoid Fossil (Left) and the Stibnite Druse (Right)


Mr. Tim Leung Presenting Souvenir to Professor FAN Luwei (範陸薇教授) of China University of Geosciences


Participants visiting the Yifu Museum of China University of Geosciences


Group Lunch with Professor Zhou Hanwen


In the afternoon, participants visited the picturesque Donghu Ting Tao Scenic Area. Donghu Lake, located in the south bank of the Yangtze River, is the largest urban lake in China with 33 square kilometres of water area. The Donghu Lake was geographically formed due to the silting of the Yangtze River, so it was originally connected to the Yangtze River until 100 years ago human engineering activities isolated it from the river. Participants standing on the lakefront, the lake stretched as far as the eye could see. The cluster of lotus leaves crowded together with rain droplets rolling on them and green weeping willows lining up along the lake were swaying lightly, which was quite a good present for the participants from the south.


Donghu Lake at Wuhan


Afterwards on the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Yangtze Riverbank at Hankou which was famous for its breath-taking vast river view. Before the new riverbank was built, the old riverbank was the hard-hit area of the Yangtze River flood disaster in the 70s. Large number of solid waste and illegal buildings stopped the river flow and rose the water level of the river. The old riverbank failed in its function to control flood. The new riverbank project started at the beginning of this century and was part of the city’s comprehensive flood control and environmental improvement plan. The obstacles were removed and the water-gates on the river were elevated from 28 m to 29.2 m. Today when the flood season comes, the flood water flows smoothly without blocking and people can enjoy the attractive river view whenever they want to visit just as we did. 



Yangtze Riverbank at Hankou


Day 4 – Yellow Crane Tower

The last stop of our technical trip was the prestigious Yellow Crane Tower. It was firstly built in 223 AD and had gone through many times of destruction and rebuilding in dynasty after dynasty. The Yellow Crane Tower we viewed today was rebuilt in 1985. Participants climbed up the tower to overlook the city along the magnificent endless Yangtze River. Hundreds of poets such as Cui Hao and Li Bai in the history of China were lost in this scenery so much and left many poems here. With the haunting rhythm of these great poems in our mind and the irresistible scenery, participants almost forgot it was time to say goodbye to the city.


Yellow Crane Tower at Wuhan


If it were not for the endeavor of Mr. Tim Leung, the Council Member of IOM3(HK), and the other members involved to coordinate through different parties to make this perfect arrangement, this trip would not be so educative and successful, which we were so grateful for. It encouraged every participant to think deeply of how human engineering activities should develop in harmony with the magic nature. Although the trip was short, the shock of unforgettable engineering wonder of the Three Gorges Dam and the fruitful result of friendly exchange with industrial peer in the China University of Geosciences would leave a profound impact on our pursuit of excellence of building to deliver a better world.


Participants taking high speed rail from Wuhan Railway Station back to Shenzhen