- Title: CHINA: Construction on China's controversial Three Gorges dam is complete
- Date: 20th May 2006
- Summary: (W2) YICHANG, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF DAM DURING THE LAST PHASE OF CONSTRUCTION (9 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 4th June 2006 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA9JSB8OPAOEEKQFT8RWSPD7R1Y
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: The last concrete was poured into China's Three Gorges dam on Saturday (May 20), but debate rages over the environmental and social consequences of the world's largest hydropower project.
The dam, a 2,309-metre (7,400-ft) long expanse of concrete spanning the Yangtze River, will generate 18 gigawatts of hydropower when it is complete and, it is hoped, tame floods on the notorious waterway.
But the $25 billion project is as much a symbol of China's own power as anything else.
The broad streets and new towers of Yichang, the city of 4 million that is the gateway to the project, attest to the investment poured in since the dam was approved.
But some residents are also eyeing critics' warnings of environmental damage they say in the long run will outweigh the benefits.
Environmentalists say the water quality in the river has already deteriorated, fish species are declining and silt trapped behind the dam is causing erosion -- even as far away as the estuary in coastal Shanghai.
They warn the dam's reservoir, which will reach a depth of 156 metres (515 feet) by October, will turn into a cesspool of raw sewage and industrial chemicals backing onto Chongqing, the metropolis of 30 million upstream from Yichang.
For the more than 1 million residents already flooded out of their homes, the dam's consequences are all too real.
But petitioners say it is the local governments that are the problem, pocketing some of the 25 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) Li says has been spent on resettlement.
The government said this week it will provide funds to support resettled migrants for the next 20 years, but critics say no amount of money can replace the whole cities and archaeological treasures submerged by the waters.
Another 300,000, about 80,000 of them this year, are still to be moved before the reservoir rises to its full level by 2009.
The effects of the sheer weight of the 600 km (375 mile) lake are also not understood, with some geologists saying it could make the area more prone to landslides and earthquakes.
The list of concerns about the project have led critics to argue that it is political folly, pushed forward to prove a point about China's prowess despite the human and environmental costs.
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