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State to Spend US$5.3 Billion to Protect Gorges Area

China is to spend 43.9 billion yuan (US$5.3 billion) to protect the environment and cultural relics and prevent geological disasters in the areas around the Three Gorges project.

Many concerns have been voiced regarding the protection of the environment and cultural relics since the Three Gorges dam project began, said Chi Wenjiang, deputy director of the Relocation and Development Bureau of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee.

With the State Council's approval, 39 billion yuan (US$4.7 billion) will be invested to fundamentally improve water quality by curbing the pollution of the Three Gorges reservoir and upper reaches of the Yangtze River and by planting belts of trees along the middle and the upper reaches of the river, Chi said.

About 700 million yuan (US$84 million) will be allocated for the protection and removal of cultural relics above the ground, and the excavation and exploration of underground ones. Another 4 billion yuan (US$482 million) will be used for the inspection and prevention of geological disasters to safeguard property, life and public security in the reservoir area, the official said.

Chi said that construction of the key project and the relocation of people from the area were proceeding well.

It is estimated that the aggregate volume of investment in the Three Gorges project will be kept below 180 billion yuan (US$22 billion). Reports said that the migration problem was still a bottleneck on the project's progress.

More than 800 industrial and mining enterprises have been moved from the area. New districts have taken shape in Wanzhou and Fuling, which will be partly submerged by the new reservoir. Two of the 10 county seats in the area have been moved in their entirety.

Chongqing, a municipality in the hinterland of the Three Gorges area, will launch five programmes over the next two years to control air pollution in its urban area.

According to Mayor Bao Xuding, the programmes include closing down 567 stone quarries in the urban area; banning diesel buses and other heavily polluting vehicles from key zones; promoting the use of low-sulphur coal; planting trees and grass; and reconstructing, moving or shutting down 12 large heavily polluting enterprises in the urban area.

(China Daily January 7, 2002)

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