Friday, May 20, 2011

China warns of 'urgent problems' facing Three Gorges dam

Jonathan Watts in the Guardian (UK) reports on the Chinese government admitting what the dam's critics have been saying all along: The Three Gorges dam, the flagship of China's massive hydroengineering ambitions, faces "urgent problems", the government has warned. In a statement approved by prime minister Wen Jiabao, the state council said the dam had pressing geological, human and ecological problems. The report also acknowledged for the first time the negative impact the dam has had on downstream river transport and water supplies.

Since the start of construction in 1992 about 16m tonnes of concrete have been poured into the giant barrier across the Yangtze river, creating a reservoir that stretches almost the length of Britain and drives 26 giant turbines.

The world's biggest hydropower plant boasts a total generating capacity of 18,200MW and the ability to help tame the floods that threaten the Yangtze delta each summer.

But it has proved expensive and controversial due to the rehousing of 1.4 million people and the flooding of more than 1,000 towns and villages. Pollution, silt and landslides have plagued the reservoir area. Given the 254bn yuan (£24bn) cost and political prestige at stake, the government focused for many years on the dam's achievements and attempted to stifle domestic criticism of the project. But its public analysis has become increasingly sober.

A statement on the government's website read: "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."...

A 2006 photo of the downstream side of the Three Gorges Dam by Christoph Filnkößl, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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