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Q & A session at the press conference on Three Gorges project construction and environmental protection
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Guo Weimin:

With Wang's presentation, I would like to open the floor for questions. Please identify yourselves before asking questions.

Market News International:

Sediment seems to be a serious problem in the reservoir area of the Three Gorges Project. I have heard that hydropower stations have been built in Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River to tackle this problem. It is said that 40 percent of the sediment comes from the upper reaches. If you try to solve the problem this way, sediment is likely to pose a problem there. How will you resolve the problem in the upper reaches?

Wang Xiaofeng:

Sediment is a major issue discussed in the feasibility study report of the Three Gorges Project. While building the project, especially in 2006 and 2003, we monitored different water levels of the reservoir after it began to store water. The reservoir was projected to take in 500 million tons of sediment a year, but the actual incoming sediment amounts to only 200 million tons annually. As I said in my presentation, the incoming sediment has obviously decreased. The project's sediment discharge capacity has reached or surpassed the designed capacity. In other words, the reservoir discharges sediment very effectively. Li and Pan can tell you more.

Pan Jiazheng:

Sediment was a hotly contested issue when we studied the feasibility of the project. Experts from across the country did a lot of research on the issue and came to a clear conclusion. They foresaw some of the problems that have emerged since the project started. Things have turned out to be better than what they had predicted. As Wang said just now, the annual incoming sediment is less than 40 percent the estimated amount. The sediment discharge rate, however, is higher than projected. The amount of the sediment in the reservoir area is completely under control. Because the water in the reservoir has yet to reach the final level and the reservoir has been in operation for only a short time, we will have to monitor the effects of the sediment over the long haul. However, I think the reservoir's effective storage capacity will largely be preserved when it arrives at an equilibrium state in several decades. The Three Gorges Reservoir will not be filled with silt. The goal is bound to materialize. It will not become a replica of the Sanmenxia Reservoir. And that's all I have to say.

CCTV International:

I have three questions. First, how is the environment in the reservoir area of the Three Gorges Project? Second, what will be the focuses of the environmental protection efforts in the area when the reservoir's water level reaches 156 meters? Third, how will China deal with the potential negative environmental impact of the Three Gorges Project?

Wang Xiaofeng:

The Three Gorges Project is in itself an ecological project. First of all, it produces clean energy. Coal-fired thermal power generation units with the same generation capacity consume 50 million tons of coal and discharge 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Moreover, the project plays an irreplaceable role in peak-load regulation of the power system and flood control. It also fuels efforts to improve the ecological environment in the Yangtze River region. While sediment decreases considerably, water quality remains largely stable. The water quality of theYangtze's mainstream, mostly above Grade III, is the best of all major rivers in China. Of course, temporary eutrophication and water bloom have occurred in some tributaries. We are closely following the situation, although the water bloom is not serious enough to prompt a warning by China's national standards.

Geological disasters are another point of concern for the public. The Three Gorges region was an area suffering frequent geological disasters even before the dam was constructed. The state has invested over 10 billion yuan in addressing the geological disasters in the reservoir area. I should say that the situation has been put under effective control. However, it does not mean that no landslides or other disasters will happen in the future. As the reservoir stores water, its banks will be reshaped. The Chinese Government is monitoring the reservoir closely and has stepped up maintenance efforts. I think we can avoid damage to the greatest extent.

The public is also concerned about reservoir-induced earthquakes, but our observations since the reservoir began to store water years ago show no such an obvious signs. The earthquake intensity in the Three Gorges region does not affect the safety of the dam. That's the current situation. Moreover, the Chinese Government has made great efforts to protect the biodiversity in the area. We have released over 200 million rare fishes, and have also put rare land animals and plants under good protection.

Speaking of the focuses of ecological development at present and in the coming years, we stand for dealing with potential risks and problems scientifically while recognizing the achievements in the construction of the project and the protection of the environment in the region in a matter-of-fact manner. This has been a consistent policy of the Chinese Government as it applies the Scientific Outlook on Development. We will concentrate our efforts on the following areas: 

--Planning: We will further implement the plans on the sustainable and comprehensive development of the Three Gorges Reservoir and on the prevention and control of water pollution in the reservoir area of the Three Gorges Project and its upper reaches.

--Engineering: We will carry out engineering projects to prevent geological disasters, maintain reservoir banks and dredge waterways. 

 --Biological measures: We will continue to cultivate and experiment on amphibious plants. 

--Management and monitoring: We will improve the ecological monitoring system in the Three Gorges region and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

--Demonstration projects: We have recently launched a "7+1" program, which includes seven pilot projects such as treatment of the fluctuation zone of the reservoir, protection of the safety of drinking water sources in tributaries, construction of ecological screen areas on reservoir banks and pollution blocking in rural and urban areas. Along with the pilot projects, efforts will be made to improve the performance assessment of the ecological monitoring system.

We have also taken measures to enhance the environmental capacity. In the reservoir area of the Three Gorges Project, 190,000 people and more than 1,600 factories have been relocated. A number of steps have been taken to control the sources of pollution. All these efforts aim to improve the environmental capacity of the region. Of course, many problems remain unresolved. We are doing research on sediment, the interaction between the Dongtinghu Lake and the Yangtze River and other issues with a view to resolving these problems.

United Press International:

You said in your presentation that 92 percent of the fund was efficiently used, and 8 percent was not. What was the problem? Was the fund misused during the construction of the project or the resettlement of the local residents? How were the lawbreakers punished? Another question is about the relations between the Three Gorges Project and NGOs. How do you cooperate with NGOs? What role will they play in the future construction of the project? Still another question, could you please give some comments on the health quality of the reservoir water? I haven't found any information about its chemical oxygen demand and biological oxygen demand in my handout.

Wang Xiaofeng: .

I didn't catch one of your questions. What I said is that the fund that has been used accounts for 92 percent of the total investment. The project has not been completed. I'm afraid you misunderstood me when you said that 8 percent of the fund was not efficiently used.

United Press International:

So, there are no problems with the use of fund?

Wang Xiaofeng:

 I said 92 percent but it does not mean that the rest of the fund was misused.
The Chinese Government values the role of NGOs. I'd like to point out that they played an important role in the decision-making process of the Three Gorges Project. They not only took part in discussion of many problems but also gave us extensive support while we constructed the project. Their response to some public opinion was very favorable to us. We will continue to let them play a role. The water quality in the Three Gorges Project region is up to the national standard in general in terms of the chemical oxygen demand. It falls into the category of "drinking water." Thank you.


How many areas in the Three Gorges Reservoir may be affected by geological disasters? What is the population in these areas? How many people have been relocated because of potential dangers?

Li Yong'an:

The reservoir area of the Three Georges Project has been frequently hit by geological disasters. Statistics show that more than 40 major landslides struck the area in the 1980s. The most serious one happened in Xintan, which falls under today's Zigui County, in 1985. The accident was reported to the State Council and transportation along the Yangtze River was suspended for 12 days because of it. Later, landslides hit Lianziya, Huanglashi and other places. The provincial government then set up a special agency to deal with landslides. All these took place before the Three Gorges Project started. After it was launched in the 1990s, the project offered a good opportunity to address the geological disasters in the reservoir area. While the reservoir was being designed, many experts were organized to study the areas affected by geological disasters. Large quantities of fund were pumped into dealing with the problem during the construction of the project.
We invested 4 billion yuan before the reservoir's water level reached 135 meters. We allocated another 8 million yuan when it reached 156 meters. It should be said that these efforts have been fruitful. No geological disasters happened along the mainstream of the Yangtze River as a result of the reservoir's water storage as its water level rose from more than 60 meters in 2003 to 156 meters at present. However, the water level will be further raised to 175 meters. We will be fully alert to the damage done to reservoir banks by the rising water level. National, provincial and local monitoring teams as well as nongovernmental monitoring and disaster prevention teams have been established with the purpose of minimizing the losses caused by geological disasters in the wake of the changes in the reservoir's water level.

China Daily:

I have two questions. The first one is for Wang. What mechanisms do you have to ensure the efficient use of the fund and prevent them from being embezzled? The second question goes to Li. You said some foreign companies invited your company to make investment and participate in projects abroad during the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. How are you getting on with international cooperation? What countries and projects are you interested in? Thank you.

Wang Xiaofeng:

The fund for the Three Gorges Project has been used in a safe and efficient manner. We have taken measures from three aspects to ensure their safe and efficient use. First, we have put in place a responsibility system, a disclosure system and a series of regulations for persons directly in charge of the fund use and management agencies. Second, we have established a four-tier supervision network, involving discipline inspection and supervision agencies, judicial departments, auditing agencies and banks. By "four tiers" I mean the state, the province, the county or district and the town or township. Towns and townships are also authorized to use fund under many resettlement projects. Third, inspection and auditing are conducted both regularly and irregularly. These initiatives have played an effective role because inspection and auditing reports are made available to the general public. If I could add, we see to it that the government does not interfere in the business operations of the project contractor. However, the Office of the State Council Three Gorges Project Construction Committee oversees its business activities, thereby ensuring the fund is properly used. Thank you.

Li Yong'an:

Now I'd like to answer your second question. "Going Global" is an important development strategy of China. The Three Gorges Project is nearing completion, allowing us to become more engaged in international cooperation. Since the project has become a widely recognized brand at home and abroad, both developing and developed countries are seeking our cooperation in the construction of hydraulic projects. Now we are doing research on these proposals so that we can make decisions scientifically.

Agence France-Presse:

Some experts held a seminar in Wuhan on September 25. According to the Xinhua News Agency, they warned that there are many hidden environmental risks in the Three Gorges Project, which may lead to severe disasters if not dealt with in time. Mr. Wang was quoted as saying, "Worsening ecological degradation and soil erosion caused by irrational development have not been fundamentally reversed." However, it seems to me that all information you gave today is rather positive. I wonder if Mr. Wang could clarify your warning at the seminar. Have you come up with any solutions to the problems so far? Does the situation remain a cause for concern? It was reported that another 4 million people near Chongqing would be relocated. Could Mr. Wang please verify this information? Can China learn anything from the Three Gorges Project when it builds dams in the future?

Wang Xiaofeng:

First of all, I'd like to draw your attention on the conclusion of the Three Gorges Project's environmental impact assessment report, which says that the environment problems do not affect the feasibility of the project and that the project's positive impact on the environment generally outweighs its negative impact. According to this conclusion, I recognized the achievements in the construction of the Three Gorges Project, including the notable progress in ecological development and environmental protection, at the Wuhan seminar. On this basis, I put forward the goal of "building a first-class hydraulic power project with first-class ecological environment" and the methods and means to realize the goal. At the same time, I analyzed the potential risks and problems. I must make it clear that the Chinese Government has shown great concern for the potential risks and problems ever since research on the project began. Some media got it wrong when they reported that the problems are "unexpected" to China. It was not "the first time for Chinese government officials to acknowledge the problems," either. We pointed out that the project's positive impact outweighs its negative impact when the environmental impact assessment report was made in 1991, indicating that it does have drawbacks that we should overcome. I believe this conclusion will prove to be scientific with the passage of time.

Pan Jiazheng:

I have noticed that many journalists from foreign media are at today's press conference. I would like to take this opportunity to tell them of my feelings about foreign press from the perspective of an ordinary citizen. I have always had a lot of respect for foreign press and their journalists. I think their reports have adhered to the principle of objectivity and fairness. But recently I have found that some media and journalists have profound prejudice against China, reporting only social problems or the dark side of society while intentionally ignoring China's remarkable achievements. Some journalists even distort or fabricate facts in their reporting. I think these acts will in no way help strengthen friendship and exchanges. I have collected some of these reports on the Three Gorges Project, often with such titles as "devil on the Yangtze River," "a time bomb for global warming," "a reservoir full of sauce source-like water." As an individual who has devoted the latter half of his career to the project, I feel greatly hurt to hear it being described like that. I hope that journalists could cover China in a more objective and accurate way. Chinese people welcome criticism from their friends abroad, including harsh criticism, but please don't demonize us. I sincerely hope that all the journalists reporting on China can be true friends of Chinese people. Thank you for listening to my opinions. (Applause burst among journalists.)

Li Yong'an:

Finally, I would like to talk about the lessons to be taken from the Three Gorges Project. As the largest flood control and hydraulic power project under construction in the world, this project should become a model for harnessing hydraulic power in the future. In the spirit of the Scientific Outlook on Development put forward by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China as a guideline, we have set four basic goals, namely, managing the dam well, helping develop local economy, improving the environment and enriching dam immigrants. In future operation and construction, we will attach greater importance to resettling dam immigrants and improving local ecological environment. I believe this approach will enable us to build hydraulic facilities in a more scientific and sustainable way.

Wang Xiaofeng:

The journalist from Agence France-Presse just now asked about the resettlement of immigrants. I have already briefed you about the progress of the resettlement work. I think the difficulty lies in the size of the immigrants. This is peculiar to China, since it is the most populous country in the world. We all know that the $20-billion Itaipu Hydropower plant in Brazil involved only the relocation of 65,000 people, of whom 25,000 lived in Paraguay. For historical reasons, China has a much larger population. The Chinese Government has attached great importance to the resettlement of immigrants, striving for a stable and well-off life for them. We have taken the following measures. First, we make sure immigrants have been reasonably compensated. The government has issued regulations on relocating immigrants in the Three Gorges Project region so that the interest of the immigrants is guaranteed by law. Second, the Central Government has decided to provide immigrants with economic aid for up to 20 years. Third, immigrants have been given opportunities to find employment, especially farmers who lost farmland during relocation. Fourth, immigrants have been given vocational education and training to improve their skills in the labor market. Fifth, other provinces and municipalities have been asked to offer economic aid to regions with immigrants. By the end of last year, total economic aid had added up to 34.1 billion yuan ($4.6 billion). And along with industrial restructuring and improved environment for development, we hope all the immigrants will be taken good care of and their problems will be properly addressed. I think these measures have so far been successful, resulting in the smooth and peaceful resettlement of the overriding majority of the immigrants. Thank you.

Global Radio News:

I have four questions. First, how much is the total embezzled amount of government fund for resettling immigrants? Second, if how will you deal with those who need to be relocated and refuse to do so for various reasons? Third, how much is the total government relocation fund that has really been used for immigrants? The fourth question is a follow-up to the question of my colleague. It is been reported that Chongqing Municipality will relocate 4 million more immigrants. Can you confirm that?

Wang Xiaofeng:

The use of the fund for the Three Gorges Project has been audited and the audit reports were released to the public. For details, our friends in the press can refer to these reports. As for the embezzlement, it has been made clear in the reports that 289 million yuan has been misused, out of more than 50 billion yuan resettlement fund, roughly 0.5 percent of the total amount. But this does not mean that money has been embezzled by any individuals. Over 200 million yuan had been used as planned, but exceeded the targeted scale. The Chinese Government has made tremendous efforts to investigate into these misuses. Last years' audits found out irregularities in spending on some auxiliary projects, resettlement programs and power transmission and distribution systems. All the problems found have been corrected, and this is the best result we can get.

To answer your second question, the Chinese Government has always tried to solve this problem through democratic decision-making procedures and the rule by law. I have mentioned that a regulation has been adopted on Three Gorges immigration. This is a government rule with legal validity. We need to know specific situations about those who refuse to relocate and the reasons behind their refusal. The government should take the responsibility and help them, whether their reluctance comes from dissatisfaction over community facilities or due to the difficulty in finding a job. As a matter of fact, most people who initially refused to move ended up accepting the government resettlement plans upon learning about government's well-considered arrangements for them. As for the very few who still refuse to move after all the efforts, we have to deal with them according to provisions of the regulation.

Wang Xiaofeng:

The third question is how much fund has been used on immigrants. Of the 50 billion yuan resettlement fund, a certain amount has been given to immigrants as reasonable compensation. So is the post-relocation incentive subsidy, now about 600 yuan per head each year. Besides these, part of the fund also has been used to set up communities for immigrants and improve local infrastructure.

As for the so-called 4 million new immigrants in Chongqing, I don't think they should be called Three Gorges immigrants. All arrangements for Three Gorges immigrants have to be ratified by the Central Government. Local government may also make demographic transfer plans for the needs of industrial restructuring and coordinated development of cities and countryside. Such a plan is totally different from Three Gorges immigration. Thank you.

The Financial Times:

My question is about the "7+1" program you have mentioned. The first question is how much will be spent on the project and how much of the fund will come from the state coffers? The second question is how much will be the total amount of immigration fund? Will it exceed the total budget of 50 billion-yuan?

Wall Street Journal:

According to reports by some NGOs, the Three Gorges Project cannot be called a successful flood control project, as it has failed to prevent floods. It could then be deduced from these reports that the Three Gorges Project should not be considered primarily a flood control project but a hydraulic power project. What's your opinion?

Wang Xiaofeng:

The State Council has allocated special fund for the "7+1"program, which is under the budget for protecting the ecological environment during the construction period. As the project is still at a trial stage and implemented only in some areas, the size of the fund is not very large for the time being. But if this project is to be expanded to more places, there will be more capital injected from a number of channels. Of course the amount of investment will also grow bigger.

With your question on the control of capital for immigrant relocation, I want to explain that the original assumption of 40 billion yuan was based on a static estimate in 1993. Since then, adjustments of Chinese laws have driven up the expenses for using land. So we have raised government funding by 5 billion. Second, the State Council has shown great concern to difficulties arising from the process of immigration. In line with the Scientific Outlook on Development, adjustments were made on the relocation plan, along with an enlarged budget on immigration, which was ratified by the State Council last year. An extra amount of money will be used for relocating immigrants and building schools and hospitals. Now the total amount of fund for immigration ratified by the State Council is 52.9 billion yuan, up by nearly 8 billion yuan.

Wang Xiaofeng:

As for the doubts about the flood control function of the Three Gorges Project, I don't think I need a long speech to make my point clear. I was born and grew up beside Dongting Lake, a flood-basin of the Yangtze River, and have held some important positions at local government offices. I have seen many times, with my own eyes, the damage of Yangtz River floods. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been taken away by the floods since 1935. Can we let this happen again? The flood control capacity in reservoir of the Three Gorges Project is over 22.1 billion cubic meters. If this capacity is well used, the flood incidence rate could be reduced to once per 1,000 years. Facts speak louder than words, and I will stop at that.

Li Yong'an:

One thing I want to add is that the flood control effect of the Three Gorges Project is not questionable. The water level will eventually rise to 156 meters by the end of this year. The project has produced the desired results this year: Flood peak appeared in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River this year, but it remained perfectly safe in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River thanks to the storage capacity of the Three Gorges reservoir.

If you have time, I suggest you visit the Jingjiang stretch of the Yangtze River and have an interview with local people, who will tell you their feelings about being able to live a peaceful life in the flooding season without worries about the threat of floods. Wuhan is an ideal city to visit. Before the construction of the Three Gorges Project, many residents there had been mobilized to prevent floods disasters during the flooding season. But the residents of Wuhan can take strolls on the riverbanks in leisure during the flooding season this year. This is the best illustration for flood control of the Three Gorges Project. With the water level of the reservoir rising to 175 meters, the effects of flood control will be further proved.

I think the best way to know the real situation is to visit local people during the flooding season.

The Beijing News:

This question is for Director Wang. Irregular weathers have appeared in Chongqing in the last two years, including the extremely heavy draught last year and the equally heavy floods this year. Some people said the abnormal climate has some thing to do with the Three Gorges Project. Can you comment on this?

And my other question is, when the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress conducted law implementation inspections last year, water blooms were found in the Three Gorges region, as you have mentioned just now. I want to know the situation has improved, worsened or remained unchanged. I guess the pollution is mainly caused by sewage and garbage from farmers and city residents. I wonder if there is a solution. Thank you. 

Wang Xiaofeng:

In regard to the improvement of the water quality of the Three Gorges Project region, you may refer to the annual bulletin on environmental monitoring released by the State Environmental Protection Administration. The report provides very detailed information on the environmental impact of the Three Gorges Project. The situation of water blooms is generally stable, and no large-scale outburst has ever occurred thus far. But we have been closely monitoring the latest development, which we think is absolutely necessary. Measures have been adopted to control point sources and non-point sources of pollution, and 39.2 billion yuan worth of special fund has been allocated to build over 90 sewage plants and garbage disposal facilities around the reservoir. As we all know, it will take a while to control non-point source pollution. Although we have put it under general control, it will take a couple of years before we can see the final results. So we hope you can closely wait for the bulletin of the State Environmental Protection Administration. Thank you.
As for the downpour in Chongqing, I think Mr. Li is in a better position to answer this question.

Li Yong'an:

We have closely studied the reasons behind the natural disasters of floods and draughts in the reservoir area in recent years. This has happened in relation to global warming. According to some meteorological experts, the main factor is the atmosphere, while the impact of Three Gorges is rather limited. Experts said the Three Gorges Project's impact on climate won't exceed 10 kilometer and that its impact on temperature won't exceed one degree centigrade. As for the downpour in Chongqing this year, images from meteorological satellites show that this downpour takes shape about 10,000 meters high in the air, while the Three Gorges dam is only 185 meters high. That means it has no impact on this downpour.

Pan Jiazheng:

I want to add something in the end. For a long time, factories and residents in the reservoir area have been used to taking the Yangtze River as a natural "sewer." They dump all their wastewater and garbage directly into the river. This practice will be strictly forbidden. Polluted water in the Three Gorges reservoir will be flashed to the lower reaches and finally enter and pollute the sea. Since the construction of the Three Gorges Project started, the Central Government and local governments have been working together to eliminate pollution and have put general situation under control. Some media reports say pollution is also found on the tributaries of the Yangtze River, but not very serious. We are fully capable of solving this problem. We welcome questions from our friends from the media. But we hope you can measure the seriousness of the problem objectively rather than make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Guo Weimin:

That is all for today's press conference. Thank you all.

(China.org.cn December 5, 2007)

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