The massive $4.17 billion Yellow River Dam built near Xiaolangdi in central China is the nation’s second largest dam project after the Three Gorges Dam. The main purpose of the earthen dam is to halt the rising river by flushing out the silt. This will be accomplished with 16 reinforced tunnels that cut through an adjacent mountain which allow engineers to regulate the flow of water. During the wet season water can be stored in the reservoir to prevent flooding, and during the dry season it can be released to flush out sediment as well as provide water for irrigation.
The reservoir behind the dam will be able store water until the year 2020. At the time no more water can released to flush out the sediment down river and the river and levees will once again start rising. “Our children and grandchildren will need to think of another solution to the silt problem,” one engineer told Newsweek.
Work began on the Yellow River dam in 1994 with the building of huge roads for carrying out rocks and earth and the blasting of massive tunnels.
The Yellow River dam will protect 120 million people from the river’s notorious flooding; better allocate water so deprived farmlands get their share of irrigation water; and ensure the river doesn’t dry up like it has in the past.
The dam will make 30 percent more water available for irrigation, which will reduce dependency on wells and ground water, and produce 1,800 kilowatts of electricity (valued at $170 million a year). This is only a tenth of the power produced by much swifter moving Yangtze River at the Three Gorges Dam.
Unlike the Three Gorges project, the Yellow River dam has received a favorable reception from bankers and environmentalists. Its estimated cost is only a forth of the Three Gorges Dam. The U.S Export-Import Bank and the World Bank have pledged over $1 billion in loans.
About 170,000 people who live in the Yellow River basin will have to be resettled to higher ground. Most of the resettled population have no objections about the move. Many are leaving mud-walled homes and small plots of land for modern homes with conveniences and large parcels of land.