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Where ships sail through the sky

Blue sky and green water add a color backdrop to the Goupitan Hydropower Station. [Photo by Mu Mingfei provided to]

If you look up and see ships sailing across the sky, you may not be dreaming. You may just be standing near an aqueduct of the Goupitan Navigation Project where, for 2.3 kilometers, vessels pass through an aqueduct suspended 100 meters above the ground.

Some call it the “waterway in the air”.

The Goupitan Hydropower Station in Yuqing county, Guizhou province, is the largest power station in the cascade hydropower development on the Wujiang River and a key element of the national “west-to-east” power transmission project.

Goupitan Hydropower Station in spring. [Photo by Mu Mingfei Provided to]

Construction of the station began in 2011. Using the completed navigation facilities, materials from central Guizhou can be shipped directly from Wujiang, Zunyi, to Fuling, Chongqing, and then to the Yangtze River.

Engineers had some tough going. In addition to maintaining the electrical power supply.

But Yuan Xiaobin and his colleagues have an even more daunting task — to build another 500-ton ship passage beside the hydropower station.

A panorama of the environment around Goupitan Hydropower Station [Photo by Mu Mingfei provided to]

Yuan is deputy director of the engineering management department of Goupitan power plant. He said the conditions of the Wujiang waterway were poor before the dam was built because of its swift current. The water level from upstream to downstream can reach 199 meters over a long distance, and that makes things difficult for builders.

In addition, at the beginning of the project, as the power plant’s generators needed to start spinning, engineers were required to generate power and build the aqueduct at the same time. Yuan always worried unconsciously about the danger of a slope collapse while working below the 230.5-meter-tall dam.

A view of the beautiful scenery at Goupitan Hydropower Station. [Photo by Mu Mingfei Provided to]

Yuan has dedicated 10 years of his life to the Goupitan Hydropower Station. There are also many college students like him coming to work in the remote mountain area after graduation. He determined to face up to the difficulty and ensure the completion of this masterpiece by the end of the year as a matter of personal pride.

The navigation project of Goupitan Hydropower Station has entered the commissioning stage. At the construction site, workers test their body temperatures and wear masks against the coronavirus, an ever-present threat throughout China and now the world.

Swift water in the discharge area of the station. [Photo by Mu Mingfei provided to]

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, progress on the project has been delayed. To catch up, Yuan and his colleagues began to coordinate major enterprises to start the resumption of production in late February.

At present, except for the absence of companies from Hubei province, the epidemic’s former epicenter, all other workers of companies have resumed work.

An aerial photo captures spectacular scenery near the station. [Photo by Zhou Lei provided to]

Wang Jin contributed to this story.

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