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Final Project Proposal:
Dam Across the Yangtze - Promise or Threat?

Susan Connell
28 February 2003
EDTEC541 Online Spring 2003

Problem, Need, or Opportunity

Beginning in prehistoric times the Yangtze River has been both the primary lifeline and the most destructive force in what is now Central China. For the past century, the Chinese government has considered ways to harness the Yangtze's strength and tame it's devastating power. A decade ago, the government set out to accomplish this goal as they began construction of what will be the world's largest dam when completed in 2009.

It's builders anticipate that the Three Gorges Dam will produce hydroelectric power equivalent to 15 nuclear power plants, dramatically improve navigability for commercial shipping and moderate the river's deadliest floods that have swept away thousands of people, businesses and even entire villages over the years. But as with any undertaking of this magnitude, the project is not without controversy. Critics say that the social, cultural and environmental costs coupled with the potential danger relating to any engineering flaws or miscalculations in the dam's construction far outweigh the benefits

Targeting everyone from students to financiers to social activists, a number of existing web sites present one side or the other of this debate. However, few present both sides evenly to let the viewer decide. The objective of this site is to build an information resource that presents a historical context for this project and provides a balance of reference data both supportive and critical of the endeavor.

Because the Yangtze River is a remote destination for many people who might be interested, use of multimedia gives the site's audience an opportunity to see, hear and feel (in the figurative sense) aspects of the subject to which they might not otherwise have access.


The audience for this site is limited in some respects and broad in others. It is limited because, outside of the Yangtze region, most people are barely aware of its existence. Although hundreds of millions of people - whose lives are being drastically affected by this project - live within the region, their access to information is highly restricted and few of them speak English. This site therefore is primarily directed towards students, teachers, social and environmental activists, tourists and travel professionals and others who may have a general interest in this region. A secondary audience may include researchers and journalists who might find the site a good starting point for exploration of the subject.

Because this site will be a starting point, it is expected that its users will have little familiarity with the subject, however they will tend to be the sorts of people who are intellectually curious and reasonably intelligent.

User's Needs

I queried a number of people who are interested in geopolitical subjects to find out what they would find interesting and useful in a site such as this.

  • They were interested in a historical background
  • They wanted to see a map of the area
  • They wanted to see some sort of before and after renderings
  • They were interested in photos of areas that would be affected
  • They wanted a reference section that had links to more detailed sites about specific aspects of the subject that might include engineering analysis, environmental research, archeological details and similar issues


Users will most likely be accessing this site through their home computer or possibly computers available at a school or library. The site will contain numerous photos and illustrations that will be optimized for web viewing. It will also contain some short videos that may require a plug-in or faster connection, but they will be configured not to interfere with the viewing experience of visitors who have a slow connection. Visitors who wish to print information from the site will require a printer.

Resources and Limitations

I have chosen this topic because I gathered most of the photo and video resources needed during a recent journey up the Yangtze. I may seek permission to use photos that others have taken earlier in the project to show the progress. I believe that I can obtain maps from government public domain sources or from a subscription that I have to a clip art service that allows any use except reselling the graphics to third parties. I plan to do some illustrations and animations myself. I have written a lot of the text already in correspondence to friends about my trip and will generate the rest using the materials that I collected as a reference.

If this site were being done "for real," I would plan to update the contents at least quarterly until the dam is completed, but that is not likely to happen. Due to time limitations, the content will be truncated as necessary to be completed by the deadline.

Because I do not speak Chinese, most of my information will be gathered from sources printed in English, but I obtained many of these in China, so I hope to maintain the balance of information that I am seeking.

General Solution

With this site, users seeking information about the Three Gorges Dam Project will have a foundation for their research as well as an overview of the project to satisfy their curiosity. For the user with a casual interest, it will probably provide more information than they want to know, but it will be presented in such a way that they can easily find the details they seek. For the more serious student or researcher, it will be a starting point with links to many related sites that will provide more comprehensive information about areas of special interest.


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© 2003, Susan Connell, Educational Technology Student at San Diego State University