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Critics say price of China's Three Gorges dam too high

Aerial view of the Three Gorges Dam site
by Peter Harmsen
Beijing (AFP) May 20, 2006
China hails the Three Gorges dam, which it completed Saturday, as the solution to a series of national problems, but critics say the price is too high.

Where proponents of the world's largest hydropower project see increased electricity generation and improved flood control, opponents see damage to the environment, ruin to China's heritage and misery to local residents.

"In my view, building the Three Gorges dam is a ridiculous and evil farce," high-profile dam opponent Dai Qing wrote on Three Gorges Probe, an online news service run by Canadian think tank Probe International.

"Many people have known something is wrong with the project, but few have dared to speak up," she said.

Friends of the Earth has been another vocal critic. "The dam is having a titanic social and environment impact," the group said in a statement Friday.

Millions of tonnes of silt are carried along the Yangtze river every year, but critics argue the dam will intercept much of it, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Lack of sediment further downstream could lead to soil erosion, while the accumulation of sediment in the reservoir could raise its level and submerge more land than previously thought.

The reservoir could also fill with the accumulated garbage from tens of millions of households, with official estimates putting annual waste as high as 200,000 cubic meters (seven million cubic feet).

The impact of the dam on wildlife has also been raised, with some arguing it could contribute to the extinction of the rare Yangtze river dolphin.

The dam will lead to the relocation of a total of 1.13 million people, and riverine communities that in some cases have lived in the area for millennia will disappear.

Some researchers have warned sedimentation and subsequent rising water levels in the reservoir will lead to the evacuation of tens of thousands more people.

The area around the Three Gorges has been prominent in the development of Chinese civilization and is brimming with physical traces of this history that teams of conservationists have been working frantically to save.

These efforts include moving the famous 1,700-year-old Zhang Fei Temple brick by brick to higher ground on the Yangtse's south bank.

But as the waters rise, that which can not be saved will disappear along with some world famous natural scenery.

Critics say the dam is under threat from earthquakes, with two geological fault lines nearby.

Officials working on the project counter this by saying the worst that can happen is a tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, while the dam is built to withstand force 7.0

Related Links

China reaches milestone with completion of Three Gorges dam
Beijing (AFP) May 20, 2006
After 13 years of immense physical effort and technical ingenuity, China Saturday put the finishing touches to its controversial Three Gorges dam, the world's largest hydropower project.

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