Garbage islands threaten China's Three Gorges dam

BEIJING Mon Aug 2, 2010 10:00am EDT

1 of 3. A worker clears floating garbage washed down by recent torrential rain on the Yangtze River in Wuhu, Anhui province, August 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Thousands of tons of garbage washed down by recent torrential rain are threatening to jam the locks of China's massive Three Gorges Dam, and is in places so thick people can stand on it, state media said on Monday.

Chen Lei, a senior official at the China Three Gorges Corporation, told the China Daily that 3,000 tons of rubbish was being collected at the dam every day, but there was still not enough manpower to clean it all up.

"The large amount of waste in the dam area could jam the miter gate of the Three Gorges Dam," Chen said, referring to the gates of the locks which allow shipping to pass through the Yangtze River.

The river is a crucial commercial artery for the upstream city of Chongqing and other areas in China's less-developed western interior provinces.

Pictures showed a huge swathe of the waters by the dam crammed full of debris, with cranes brought in to fish out a tangled mess, including shoes, bottles, branches and Styrofoam.

Some 50,000 square meters of water (more than half a million square feet) had been covered by trash washed down since the start of the rainy season in July, the report said. The trash is around 60 centimeters (two feet) deep, and in some parts so compacted people can walk on it, the Hubei Daily added.

"Such a large amount of debris could damage the propellers and bottoms of passing boats," Chen said, "The decaying garbage could also harm the scenery and the water quality."

The Three Gorges Dam is the world's largest hydropower project, and was built partly to tame flooding along the Yangtze, which killed over 4,000 people in 1998 and countless more over the centuries.

Enormously expensive and disruptive, the dam has cost over 254 billion yuan ($37.5 billion) and forced the relocation of 1.3 million people to make way for the reservoir. Towns, fields and historical and archaeological sites have been submerged.

Environmentalists have warned for years that the reservoir could turn into a cesspool of raw sewage and industrial chemicals backing onto nearby Chongqing city, and feared that silt trapped behind the dam could cause erosion downstream.

China has made scant progress on schemes drawn up nearly a decade ago to limit pollution in and around the reservoir.

Chen said about 10 million yuan is spent each year clearing 150,000 to 200,000 cubic meters of floating waste by the dam.

($1=6.773 Yuan)

(Reporting by Huang Yan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison)

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Comments (8)
shameOnCorps wrote:
Thankyou World Bank for the current situation going on here in China. Next year it will be India. Everytime a poor country borrows from the World Bank and cannot pay them back the bank swoops in with grand plans to build huge dams and capture the drinking water of that area. They then charge the people for fresh water. The world bank is run by companies that sell bottled water and they are trying to monopolise a resource that is needed to live. Water should not be treated as a commodity when it is as important to our continued survival as the air we breath. When will the world bank stop building dams? When will the world bank stop profitting on other people’s misery? When will nations have the power to make the world bank pay for their crimes against humanity? And anyone who thinks that having no access to fresh drinking water is not a crime then they have never been without fresh, clean, water.

Aug 02, 2010 12:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
fireturtler wrote:
@shameOnCorps: Blah, blah, blah. Think for yourself instead of parroting what you hear. Does Nestle run the World Bank? Is the World Bank responsible for the pollution in the countryside that has washed down in the floods?
My beef is that we have the most populace country in the world and they have no method for keeping the environment clean and yet they compete with the US and others without tariffs for productions of goods that include the costs of a clean environment.

Aug 02, 2010 12:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jlpeng wrote:
All problems in the U.S. can be resoled in one week if we have one of those guys: Hitler, Stalin or Mao.

Aug 03, 2010 2:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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