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Three Gorges project 'under control'
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Officials behind the massive Three Gorges Dam are preparing to plug any holes in the project even as waters in its reservoir peak in two years.

Since the 2,309-m-long dam was erected in 2003, the water level in the reservoir has risen in stages, reaching 156 m last year.

While the level is scheduled to reach a maximum height of 175 m above sea level in 2009, there have been fears that rising waters from the world's largest hydropower project will further strain shores and trigger landslides.

"The government is closely monitoring and intensifying repair work, and I think we can avoid losses as far as possible," Wang Xiaofeng, director of the Office of Three Gorges Project Construction Committee said yesterday.

A total of 12 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) has been allocated in the past few years for geological repairs in the area - already a geologically sensitive region previously.

"I would describe it as effective control," Wang told a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

"Of course effective control doesn't mean that in the future there won't be any landslides or threats that arise."

Li Yong'an, the general manager of the China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Corp, said the dam had not triggered any "major" landslides along the mainstream of the Yangtze.

Government organs at all levels have also set up specialist teams and mobilized residents to detect possible geological disasters, to avoid or minimize losses as the water level keeps rising.

Apart from preventing geological disasters, the environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam has been less than originally forecast, experts have said.

Pan Jiazheng, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that careful planning has seen silt accumulation at the reservoir being less than 40 percent of the annual projected figure.

The water quality in the main sections of the Yangtze River is generally stable, and algae bloom condition has not reached the State warning levels.

Wang stressed that the Three Gorges Dam is providing a cleaner source of energy and has also played an important role in taming the Yangtze and controlling floods.

"We are going to be able to weather the worst flooding in 1,000 years," he said.

A thermal power plant of the same capacity as the Three Gorges hydropower project will burn 50 million tons of coal and discharge 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, he said.

Aside from improving shipping conditions and ensuring power supply, the project also aims to protect the area's ecological environment, Wang said.

As of the end of September, more than 1.22 million people had been resettled, under the guidance of a special immigration rule ensuring the interests of those relocated, he said.

Apart from the 34 billion yuan ($4.38 billion) used for relocation, efforts are also being made to create more jobs for the resettled population, Wang said.

(China Daily November 28, 2007)

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