20 May 2011

Problems acknowledged for first time at Three Gorges Dam

7:34 am on 20 May 2011

China has acknowledged that the Three Gorges Dam has created major problems.

The State Council says it plans to deal with the environmental difficulties caused by the giant dam project on the Yangtze River, which involved relocating 1.3 million people.

The BBC reports this appears to be the first time that central government has admitted to problems with the $US40 billion project.

The admission came in a statement from the State Council.

The statement initially praised the scheme's achievements, saying it had helped alleviate flooding, improve navigation and generate electricity.

But it went on: ''There are urgent problems that need to be addressed,

such as stabilising and improving living conditions for relocated people, protecting the environment, and preventing geological disasters.''

The Three Gorges is the world's largest dam. Construction started in 1994 and the dam was completed in 2006.

The reservoir reached its full height in October last year after submerging 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages. It began generating power in 2008.

The BBC reports provincial leaders and campaign groups have for some time complained about problems associated with the project.

One problem appears to have been caused by fluctuations in the water level of the vast reservoir, which stretches for 660km (360 miles). This causes frequent landslides.

The government said more also needs to be done to help those forced to move because of the construction.

It said they need more jobs, better transport facilities and improved social security benefits.

Problems known from outset

In the latest statement, the State Council said it knew about some of the problems even before work started 17 years ago.

It said others arose while the dam was being built and some have happened since, because of ''new demands as the social and economical situation developed''.

The State Council said the task now is to begin sorting out some of these problems.