Sunday, June 01, 2003

Time for a new map of China

China his announced that the first phase of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is complete. The closing of the gates today on this dam will create a new lake on the Yangtze that will wreak massive changes on the river. The total project will be completed in 2009.

There are those who have argued the relative merits of the dam. The Chinese government claims that it will save thousands of lives by stopping the deadly floods on the river as well as providing the Chinese economy with badly needed energy. Those opposed to the dam include environmentalists who are opposed to the changes in the river and intellectuals who decry the loss of ancient villages and culturally important locations.

To be honest I have no position on the merits of the project. It seems to be a waste of effort as at this point as it is more or less fait accompli. I have to admit that I am a bit sad that I did not get a chance to go to China and see the Yangtze before the gorges were flooded. I understand that it was a lovely region.

What I do know for certain is that this dam will render all previous physical maps of China obsolete.

The changes wrought by this dam go way beyond those of a simple new roadway – instead there will be a new physical map of China. A new lake (no name has been released) will be created it is expected to stretch for almost 400 miles upstream along the Yangtze. The flooded area will cover 2 cities, 11 counties and 116 towns.

The changes created by the dam will not be on all new maps for a few months. However in the future you should be able to determine the date of any maps of China as being from before or after 2003 based on whether or not they include this new lake created by the Three Gorges Dam.


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