BEIJING China is to relocate at least 4 million
more people from the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area in the
next 10 to 15 years to protect its "ecological safety," Xinhua
news agency said on Thursday.
The $25 billion dam near Chongqing, in southwest China, is
the world's largest hydropower project, but even senior
officials who have defended the project as an engineering
wonder now warn that areas around the dam are paying a heavy
They cite erosion and landslides on steep hills around the
dam, conflicts over land shortages and "ecological
deterioration caused by irrational development."
The dam, whose construction flooded 116 towns and hundreds
of cultural sites and displaced 1.4 million people, is a work
in progress, but state media have said it could be completed by
the end of 2008, just after the Beijing Olympic Games.
"More than 4 million people currently living in northeast
and southwest Chongqing, where the Three Gorges Reservoir
extends for 600 km (360 miles), would be encouraged to resettle
on the urban outskirts about an hour's bus ride from downtown
Chongqing," Xinhua said, quoting a report on the on sina.com
No details about the relocation were available, but Yu
Yuanmu, vice mayor of Chongqing, was quoted by Xinhua as saying
the ecological safety of the area was at risk from the growing
Environmentalists have long criticized the project, saying
silt trapped behind the dam is causing erosion and warning that
the dam's reservoir will turn into a cesspool of raw sewage and
industrial chemicals backing onto Chongqing.
The State Council had approved a plan which was of "great
importance to the environmental protection" of the area, Jiang
Yong, director of the Chongqing development plan bureau, was
quoted by the China Daily as saying.
"One of the key elements in Chongqing's new development
plan is to further our efforts to protect the environment of
the reservoir area since the environment here has changed
greatly due to the Three Gorges project and massive population
Relocation has also been a flashpoint for unrest over the
dam. Many object to being moved away from their communities and
livelihoods, and petitioners have accused local governments of
pocketing much of their compensation.