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Reef Clearing Begins in Three Gorges Reservoir

China began clearing reefs in the Three Gorges reservoir in southwest China on Sunday. The eight-month-long operation is aimed at ensuring safety of future navigation in the river course.

More than 500 tons of non-poisonous explosives will be used to destroy hidden reefs at 14 places along the navigation channel from Fuling to Tongluo Gorge. "The hidden reefs are a potential threat to safe navigation when water levels rise to 156 meters by next June," Lu Jing, deputy director of the Chongqing navigation channel engineering bureau, said. The bureau is in charge of the blasting operation.

"When the operation ends in June next year, the navigation channel at the Three Gorges is expected to be used a waterborne expressway," Lu added.

To minimize the impact on the environment, parts of the reef where rare fish live during the winter will not be cleared, Lu said.

The construction of the Three Gorges Project, the world's biggest hydroelectric power project, began in 1993 and is expected to be completed in 2009. Water was first stored in The Three Gorges Reservoir in June 2003.

The main dam of the project is expected to be completed in June 2006, approximately the time when the water level of the Three Gorges Reservoir should rise to 156 meters. Experts believe this will greatly improve navigation conditions in the Yangtze River.

(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2005)

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