China acknowledges downside to Three Gorges Dam

BEIJING Wed May 18, 2011 9:55am EDT

1 of 4. The Three Gorges Dam is seen on the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei province October 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING (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 (www.gov.cn).

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.

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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Comments (7)
Alfred.Brock wrote:
Sounds like the apologetics for nuclear power – we know there are risks but we are going to go ahead and crush any opposition to it anyway.

May 19, 2011 7:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Eideard wrote:
The acknowledgements of some risk have always been public. Folks who whine about change rarely acknowledge a past which contradicts their ideology.

Whether it’s nuclear power – or wind power and solar power – generating electricity, opponents will whine about their fears or the view from their vacation cottage being changed. Assigning “evil” to systems which can be abused or distorted over time by mismanagement – and therefore banning the systems is absurd.

We just waltzed through the second worst economic crash in the last century. It was initiated by corrupt mortgage lending practices and brought to a global crisis by thugs who figured out how to sell securities based on mythical collateral. I guess that means we should eliminate mortgage loans, bank and investments . If we listen to the mice running from bells that might just be attached to cats.

Every dam in the world is challenged by someone who fears losing a view – or the earth splitting asunder. Sometimes they’re right. I’ve fought against a few in my time. But, sometimes they are part of a process striving as only human projects can do to make life better for millions of people and they just may achieve all or a part of that goal.

It’s how we left those nice secure caves, folks.

May 19, 2011 8:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
so what… it is better than sitting in the dark… development is a good thing and everything comes with a side effect…

May 19, 2011 9:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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