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Three Gorges Project: Visible Example of China's Water Control Efforts
The man-made canal, part of the Three Gorges Project on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, was successfully sealed off Wednesday morning.

The damming marked the start of a new phase of construction for the project, considered by experts to be the world's largest water control facility.

The project generated a great deal of controversy in the 50 years prior to its initiation in 1993. Initially, the controversy centered on financial and technical difficulties which eventually gave way to environmental concerns.

Lu Youmei, general manager of the China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Co., said, "Flooding results from ecological imbalance."

"The prime objective of the Three Gorges Project is to prevent flooding on the Yangtze River," explained Lu, who is also a famous water control expert.

China has a long history of flooding along its many rivers. Historical records say that during the more than 2,000 years preceding the founding of the New China in 1949, there was one flooding incident every two years. In addition, the frequent and serious flooding on the Yangtze in the past more than one decade has generated enormous losses.

Chinese scientists agree that the Three Gorges Project should be constructed for the purpose of curbing flooding on the mighty Yangtze, however, they also feel that greater efforts should be made to prevent potential environmental damage.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin also stressed the importance of environmental protection on Nov. 8, 1997, as he observed the damming of the main stream of the Yangtze, saying, "Environmental protection is a crucial issue which will benefit future generations of the Chinese nation".

Building dams on rivers does not necessarily constitute conquering nature, admitted Chen Hanbai, also a veteran water control specialist, rather "it is just like initiating a dialogue or negotiations between mankind and the forces of nature."

As a result of the construction of the Three Gorges Project, local residents have elected to either relocate to higher elevations or simply move to other parts of the country. Local industries considered as polluters have been either relocated or shut down.

To date, 140,000 residents have left the Three Gorges reservoir area to build new homes in 11 relatively wealthy provinces as well as in Shanghai Municipality. In addition, more than 1,000 polluting enterprises in the reservoir area have been shut down.

Beginning this year, the Chinese government will earmark 44 billion yuan (about US$5.3 billion) for improving the environment in the Three Gorges reservoir area.

Apart from that, 490 million yuan (about US$59.04 million) has been allotted for repairing environmental damage resulting from the construction of the dam.

The Three Gorges Project has now become the most important environmental protection project in Chinese history.

"Environmental protection efforts will ensure that the Three Gorges Project plays a full role in flood control, power generation and navigation," said Lu Youmei, General Manager of China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Co., adding "it will also greatly improve the damaged ecological environment in the Yangtze River Valley."

By 2009, the anticipated completion date, the approximately 15 million residents living along the lower reaches of the Yangtze, as well as a large area of arable land, will be secure from the threat of flooding. The project will also help to prevent the accumulation of silt which contributes to the drying up of lakes along the middle reaches of the Yangtze.

Upon completion, the project will be able to generate 84.7 billion kwh of electricity annually, which will replace the burning of approximately 50 million tons of coal, a major source of pollution.

The Three Gorges Project will begin to store water and generate power next year, following a decade of construction.

Pan Jiazheng, a member of both the Chinese Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said: "Chinese has long worshipped the philosophy of achieving harmony between mankind and nature, therefore the taming of the river, with its long-term benefits, constitutes a victory of mankind over nature."

(People's Daily November 7, 2002)

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