Three Gorges reservoir plagued by hazards

By Zuo Likun (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-03-06 16:26
The fragile hilly ecosystem near the Three Gorges Reservoir has suffered a series of plights including geologic hazards, stone desertification and water pollution, said a vice-mayor of Chongqing municipality, the Beijing Times reported on Saturday.

So far 252 geological hazards have occurred the reservoir area with another 2,500 sites prone to disaster relapses since the water storage swelled to 175 meters high in last September, said Vice-Mayor Tan Xiwei at a group discussion of the ongoing National People's Congress session in Beijing.

The outspoken official added that the reservoir's surrounding mountainous terrain adds to the rampant soil erosion that has plagued nearly half of the region, while agricultural pollutants have already outpaced industrial exhausts.

In addition to the environmental impacts of the hydropower plant, the unprecedented resettlement of 1.5 million people to make room for it is low on funds and unemployment is rising among the homesick migrants, according to Tan, who is also committee secretary of the municipal resettlement program.

Approximately 21.9 percent of the relocated urbanites in Chongqing are entitled to claim minimum-income benefits, and the urban jobless rate here is 8.95 percent, said Tan.

The vice-mayor suggested a power price hike to help fund resettlement and to tackle the long-term problems inherited from the power plant, and environmental protection mandates for reservoir management.

Ever since its construction in 1994, the Three Gorges hydropower plant, the world's largest and for long a national symbol of progress, has been no stranger to polarized arguments, from green energy champions, technology worshipers to cultural preservationists and calamity foretelling hydrologists.