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Three Gorges Dam China
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Three Gorges Dam, China

January 16, 2006
Water churns through diversion holes in the world's largest dam - China's Three Gorges project on the Yangtze River, imaged here by ESA's Proba satellite this week. Seen to the left, the waters behind the dam have risen to a level of 135 meters since the sluice gates were first closed in early June, and in August Three Gorges is due to generate its first commercial hydroelectricity.

The Three Gorges project is set to create a new 600-km-long body of water on the face of the 21st century Earth: the thick concrete dam walls stand 190 meters tall and already they hold back an estimated 10 billion cubic meters of water. More than 600,000 people have had to abandon their homes to the rising reservoir, and as many again will have to relocate before the waters reach their final planned level of 175 meters.

It can be clearly seen in the image how the river has burst its banks and is inundating the land upriver of the dam. The waters of the world's third-longest river appear brown in color because they are heavy with sediment. Many environmentalists have campaigned against the 20 billion-plus Three Gorges project due to the drowning of multiple cultural heritage sites, the fear that reservoir will collect industrial pollution and sewage that cannot now be washed to the sea, and the risk posed to downstream populations if the dam should ever break. But the Chinese government says the project will tame the flood-prone Yangtze River and generate much-needed electricity for economic development.

This 18-metre resolution image was acquired by the CHRIS sensor onboard Proba on 30 July 2003.

The Project for On-Board Autonomy (Proba) is a technology demonstration mission of the European Space Agency. CHRIS is a push-broom spectrometer capable of imaging up to 200 spectral bands in the visible range. Together with the scanning and maneuvering capabilities of the spacecraft it supports Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) measurements used in land, sea and atmospheric observations.

Technical Information:
  • Satellite: Proba
  • Instrument: CHRIS
  • Acquisition: 30-Jul-2003
  • Center coordinates: lat. 30.60, lon. 111.20