Solution to dam problems

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, May 20, 2011
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Up until Wednesday, our ears had been filled with assurances that a dam at the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River would deliver benefits without doing any harm.

So the State Council's acknowledgement of "problems that demand prompt solutions" on Wednesday came more or less as a surprise.

As Premier Wen Jiabao enumerated at the State Council meeting, there have been some problems with the dam - including the resettlement of 1.3 million people, ecological and environmental damage, geological disasters, irrigation and water supply, as well as water transport on the middle and lower reaches.

Some of these problems were seen as possible during the designing and building process while others have emerged since the dam went into operation as a result of the country's fast economic development and global changes.

Each of these side effects will have to be taken care of and we should prepare ourselves in case any others emerge.

It is admirable that the central government has openly displayed concern about the downsides of the project and has already devised a plan for follow-up work to address the problems so far identified.

We are glad to see the issue is being treated with the seriousness it deserves.

It is probably meaningless to debate whether or not the dam should have been built at all - What is done is done. It is there now after all.

But it is time to get to work, so that the promised benefits materialize and the negative consequences are reduced as much as possible.

Our No 1 priority now must be to address the problems that have been identified, and take pre-emptive measures to suppress any further problems arising.

The State Council's plan for follow-up steps appears to be a sensible one tailored to practical needs. We hope its execution does not go awry in the hands of local administrators.

But besides the well-thought-out sub-plans for the follow-up work - which are essential to achieve the "prompt solutions" on the central government's priority list - the most significant follow-up is that we learn from what has happened.

Next time around, when something big is to be achieved, let us be aware of all the possible side effects and follow the scientific, democratic decision-making process. Knowledge is the most reliable guarantee for informed decisions.

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