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News 26 Sep 07
Chinese experts warn of Three Gorges Dam 'catastrophe'
China's giant Three Gorges Dam project could lead to ecological "catastrophe" without urgent action to prevent further environmental damage, Chinese experts warned in state media.
Environmental problems triggered by the dam are beginning to emerge at the world's largest hydropower project, Xinhua news agency reported late Tuesday.
The head of the office in charge of constructing the dam, Wang Xiaofeng, told a conference a plethora of ecological problems sparked by the construction of the dam cannot be ignored.
"We cannot relax our guard against ecological and environmental security problems brought on by the Three Gorges project," Wang was quoted as saying. "We absolutely cannot sacrifice our environment in exchange for temporary economic prosperity."
Threats such as landslides, soil erosion, water pollution, conflicts caused by land and water shortage and other ecological damage due to "irrational development" have even been exacerbated, not improved, he warned.
Wang said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told a cabinet meeting this year that solving environmental problems surrounding the controversial dam project should be a priority for the country.
Local government officials around the dam area also told the conference that the water quality in tributaries had suffered and threatened drinking water safety for residents.
Pollution caused by sedimentation put at risk the drinking water supply to 50,000 residents in one county and led to a proliferation of algae in many local rivers, they said.
Where proponents of the giant hydropower project see increased electricity generation and improved flood control, critics have long warned about damage to the environment, ruin to China's heritage and misery to local residents.
Opponents argue the dam intercepts much of the silt carried along the Yangtze river, with the lack of sediment downstream leading to soil erosion.
They also claim the accumulation of sediment in the reservoir could submerge more land than previously thought.
The impact of the dam on the region's wildlife is also issue, with some arguing it could contribute to the final extinction of the rare Yangtze river dolphin.
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