Wednesday, May 18, 2011

China acknowledges downside to Three Gorges dam

China acknowledges downside to Three Gorges dam
Reuters, Wed May 18, 2011
By Michael Martina

BEIJING May 18 (Reuters) - China's landmark Three Gorges Dam project
provides benefits to the Chinese people, but has created a myriad of
urgent problems from the relocation of more than a million residents to
risks of geological disasters, the Chinese government said on Thursday.

The statement from China's State Council, or cabinet, marked a rare
acknowledgment of the issues that have shadowed the world's largest dam,
an engineering feat designed to tame the Yangtze River that snakes from
the Tibetan plateau to Shanghai.

"At the same time that the Three Gorges project provides huge
comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the
smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection, and geological
disaster prevention," the statement said, which appeared on the
government's website (

Premier Wen Jiabao presided over the meeting that produced the
statement, which also said problems existed for down-river transport,
irrigation and water supplies.

Problems emerged at various stages of project planning and construction
but could not be solved immediately, and some arose because of
"increased demands brought on by economic and social development", the
statement said.

The government said it would continue to address the problems caused by
the dam, and vowed to set-up disaster alert systems and increased
funding for environmental protection.

Enormously expensive and disruptive, the dam has cost over 254 billion
yuan ($37.47 billion) and forced the relocation of 1.3 million people to
make way for the reservoir. [ID:nTOE66M01Q]

Towns, fields and historical and archaeological sites have been
submerged, just as pollution and geological threats have risen around
the slopes around the 660-km (410-mile) reservoir.

Last year, China's media began fretting about whether the dam could meet
one if its long-term objectives of flood control and officials have
since been toning down claims of its flood-taming abilities.

Dai Qing, an environmental activist who has opposed the Three Gorges
project said the damage caused by the dam is in some cases irreversible,
and in other cases would require vast sums of money to resolve.

"The most serious threat is that of geological disasters. Now that the
dam is in place, no amount of money can fix the problem. It
fundamentally cannot be resolved," she said.

Dai said that Wen and President Hu Jintao, trained in geological and
hydraulic engineering respectively, did not appear at a celebration
ceremony for the opening of the dam because as industry insiders they
were aware of the risks of the project.

"There is no question that the problems with the dam are extremely
serious, but this statement is likely just an attempt to shirk
responsibility," she said. (Editing by Alex Richardson)

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