China's State Council has authorized the Three Gorges power plant to raise the water level of the reservoir from the current 135 meters to 156 meters.
The decision was made at a recent State Council special committee meeting headed by Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, Xinhua learnt Monday.
With the green light from the committee, the water level at the world's highest dam will be raised to 156 meters after this year's flood season.
The State Council committee based its decision on the conclusion of a technical committee, which had earlier given its blessing to the plan.
The committee agreed that the design, construction and installation of all engineering projects at the Three Gorges power plant on the Yangtze River have met design requirements, and that all the commissioned structures are sound.
It concluded that the relocation of residents living in the soon-to-be-submerged areas, and clearance of debris, have been properly carried out and the water level can be raised.
Located in Yichang City in central China's Hubei Province, the Three Gorges power plant is the biggest in the world. When completed, it will have 26 generators with a combined capacity of 18.2 million kilowatts, generating 84.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
Construction of the power plant began in 1993 with approval from the National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body. It is estimated to have cost 180 billion yuan (approximately US$22.5. billion).
The main power project dam measures 2,309 meters long and 185 meters high. It was completed on May 20 this year.
When completed in 2009, the reservoir water level will reach 175 meters.
Urging relevant parties and authorities to monitor the situation closely, Vice-Premier Zeng said efforts to curb water pollution and ward off possible geological disasters should be stepped up to ensure that the reservoir is safe once the water level has been raised.
(Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2006)