The dam is some 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers) long and 607 feet (185 meters) tall—five times larger than the U.S.'s Hoover Dam.
Construction workers used some 21 million cubic yards (16 million cubic meters) of concrete in the structure—a world record.
Upstream of the dam, the reservoir's water level is presently 456 feet (139 meters) above sea level, and it's expected to rise quickly. The 410-mile-long (660-km-long) reservoir will eventually be flooded to 574 feet (175 meters) above sea level.
A Hundred Lives, Billions of Dollars
Chinese state media reports that over a hundred workers died during the lengthy construction project.
Economic costs also ran high. Official reports place the price tag in the 24-billion-U.S.-dollar range. Critics say that actual costs could be several times the stated amount.
Over a Million People Displaced
The dam's 410-mile-long (660-kilometer-long) reservoir will flood about 244 square miles (632 square kilometers) of land—including well over a thousand towns and villages.
Some 1.3 million people (another disputed number) have been or will be relocated.
The Three Gorges plan includes compensation for the dispossessed, such as payments and new homes and jobs. But these efforts have been plagued by widespread local corruption and complaints that funds aren't reaching the intended recipients.
Dozens of architectural and cultural sites will also disappear under the reservoir. Among the most notable are relics of the ancient Ba people, who lived in the region some 4,000 years ago.
300,000 Killed in 20th-Century Floods
Chinese authorities estimate that some 300,000 people were killed in the 20th century's largest Yangtze River floods.
Officials believe that the dam will protect some 15 million people from such deadly waters, as well as 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) of farmland.
The wall is built to weather floods of a once-in-a-century severity. But some scientists have expressed concern about...