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Gigantic dam's environment to be protected adequately
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Environment protection measures are high on the agenda as China's gigantic Three Gorges dam project heads toward completion this year, said dam builders.

According to the ongoing work conference at the year beginning of the China Three Gorges Project Corporation, more environmental facilities will be built this year to deal with and guard against environmental problems in the dam area.

The facilities include the new Yingzizui water plant, Letianxi waste water processing factory, a processing ground to handle algae blooms and silt in dammed water and a breeding center for protected fish species in the upper reaches of the river.

Plans have also been made to deal with cave-ins, debris slides and other geological hazards along highways that run through the area and to reinforce reservoir banks with more trees.

Li Yong'an, director of the corporation, told his staff that the success of the dam would boost China's pride and world standing. "As the world's largest hydro-power plant, the Three Gorges will attract wide attention from the international society this year when China rises to the center stage as Olympic host," he said.

Li urged staff to continue with the highest standards in building, operating and managing the project. "A top-quality and environment-friendly Three Gorges will bolster the international image of this engineering feat, and showcase China's accomplishments and the overall strength of the nation," he said.

The dam, which stands at 185 meters above sea level and holds 39 billion cubic meters of water, began construction in 1994 to tame periodic devastating floods on the Yangtze and generate clean energy.

The 180-billion yuan project was built to reduce the threat of floods on the Yangtze from once every 10 years to once every 100 years. The cost is still 2 million yuan less than the economic losses incurred by the 1998 flood.

With five more sets of generators, each with a capacity of 700,000 kilowatts, the project has 31 generators which are set to be completed in 2008. But worries resurfaced over its environment impact, including algae blooms, landslides, trapped silts and clean water discharge.

Wang Xiaofeng, director of the office of the Three Gorges Project Committee of the State Council, or China's Cabinet, told Xinhua in November that "the dam's environmental impacts had been less damaging than feared and under control".

Latest statistics from the work conference show that the dam has effectively relieved flood pressure and provided 3.4 billion cubic meters of water to the lower reaches in the lean water season last year. It handled 60 million tons of cargo last year, up 10 million tons over 2006, and, together with Gezhouba dam, about 38 kilometers downstream, the dam has generated more than 77 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)

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