Dams Vital for Development

China must build more dams if it is to fully develop as a nation. And dam experts around the world must join hands with decision-makers to pay more attention to dam safety and ensuring dams are environmentally friendly.

There should also be more focus on reducing any disasters that could occur because of huge dams with billions of water behind them.

This was all agreed by some 2,000 Chinese and foreign experts at a four-day conference, the 20th Congress of International Commission on Large Dams, which began Tuesday in Beijing.

Addressing the conference, Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao said that "over a large part of the 21st century, the construction of large dams will play a key role in exploiting China's water resources, controlling floods and droughts, and pushing the national economy and the country's modernization pace forward."

Dam building in China has a long history. The country has built almost as many big dams as the rest of the world combined over the past few decades.

In the next few years, China is set to build several more high dams, 31 of which will be more than 100 metres high -- as high as a 30-storey building, Wen disclosed.

He said China will continue to treat dams as one of the key parts of its infrastructure. But Wen urged experts to be cautious when designing and building dams to ensure people's lives and property are not put at risk.

Wen said he hoped great attention can be paid to the impact of dams on the environment.

"Living in a high-tech era, China's construction and management of water conservation projects, particularly high and large dams, depends on science and technology," Wen said.

He added that China will adopt the world's most advanced technology and materials for its new reservoirs.

Currently, the world is facing crisis because of a lack of water, and there is also a growing appeal worldwide for more harmony with the environment during water exploitation efforts.

One foreign scholar at the conference said the mission of the international dam commission "is to advance the art and science of planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining dams to develop the world's water resources in a technically safe, financially sound and ecologically and socio-economically sustainable manner."

According to Kaare Hoeg, the commission's co-chairman, there are about 45,000 large dams in the world. They have become an essential part of our infrastructure.

In spite of much attention recently on cases where environmental and social costs have been higher than expected, "people will continue to build dams."

Hoeg added: "Dams and reservoirs in many cases are the best option to meet the needs of human beings."

Dams are needed to supply water for domestic, industrial and irrigation use. They are also used for energy generation, flood-control, drought mitigation, improving the environment, and recreation, he said.

(China Daily)

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