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NPC Deputy Calls for Waiving Charges to Visit Three Gorges Dam
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How much should be paid for a visit to the world's largest hydroelectric project. The answer of a Chinese legislator is "free".

Peng Fuchun, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), said he would make a suggestion to the NPC, the country's top legislature, at its upcoming annual session that the Three Gorges Dam is open free of charge to all tourists.

"The Three Gorges Project should be taken as a live textbook showcasing national strength and promoting science and patriotism education instead of as a means of profit-making," said Peng, also a philosophy professor with the Wuhan University of central China' s Hubei Province, where the Three Gorges Dam is located.

"What's more, all the people in China has made contribution to constructing the project by paying an additional sum in their electricity bills, let alone dam builders and the millions of people who have been resettled due to the project," said Peng.

"To charge 105 yuan (13.5 U.S. dollars) for each visitor has hurt the interests of the people," said the professor.

The top of the dam, near Yichang City in western Hubei Province, originally opened to visitors in 2005. The scene is specifically spectacular from July to September when the Yangtze River is in spate.

Only 1,000 visitors are allowed on top of the dam each day and they have a chance to enjoy a grand view of water being discharged from the dam. The maximum discharge capacity was 11,610 cubic meters per second, the world's largest.

The dam site received 1.18 million visitors in 2006, 27 percent up year on year, according to the Three Gorges Tourism Development Co. Ltd.

The dam, 2,309 meters long and 185 meters high, was completed in May last year, raising water level in the reservoir to 156 meters and triggering visitor booms.

A neighboring theme park to commemorate the damming of the Yangtze River nearby was opened to public on Oct. 1, becoming another popular attraction, according to the tourism development company.

Peng said the cost-free policy will attract more visitors to the dam site, helping boost local economic development.

"Many large hydroelectric projects in other countries have adopted the practice and it proves profitable, why shouldn't we?" he asked.

Construction of the Three Gorges Project was launched in 1993 and will be completed in 2009.

(Xinhua News Agency March 3, 2007)

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