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Saturday, November 8, 1997 Published at 13:47 GMT



World

China throws a barrier across the Yangtze

The Three Gorges Dam will flood a huge area the size of Singapore

China has completed the first stage of the building of the Three Gorges dam, the biggest such project in the world.

The Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng and other senior Communist leaders watched as bulldozers added the last few boulders to a temporary dam across the mighty Yangtze river, the world's third longest.


[ image: The World Bank and US have refused to support the project]
The World Bank and US have refused to support the project
The dam will displace more than one million people but officials say it promises low-cost energy and an end to devastating annual floods.

The vast civil engineering project was first dreamt of 80 years ago by Chinese revolutionary hero Dr Sun Yat Sen. When it is finished in 2009 it will create a vast lake the size of Singapore and provide a vast amount of hydro-electric energy for central China.

An artificial navigation channel will allow vessels from Shanghai and Wuhan to reach Chongqing and the upper Yangtze. The dam is also intended to prevent annual flooding which often kills hundreds.


[ image: Bulldozers add the last few boulders]
Bulldozers add the last few boulders
But the World Bank and the United States have refused to support the project because of the environmental damage involved.

Conservationists fear for the future of the snub-nosed dolphin, which is indigenous to the Yangtze, and the Siberian crane. There are also dire predictions about how the project will affect the historic city of Chongqing.

The Chinese insist all safety precautions will be taken in the £16 billion project, which will create a massive lake 600 kilometres long.


[ image: China's leaders look on with pride]
China's leaders look on with pride
Hundreds of lorry-loads of boulders have been used to finish the building of two parallel barriers across the river in Hubei province.

When they are complete, the water between them will be siphoned off, creating a dry area for the building of the giant dam, which will eventually stand 180 metres high.

But environmentalists and archaeologists, mainly outside China, have protested against the project, which will force more than a million people to be rehoused.

In 1870 the river broke its banks and around a million people died but it was not until the 1950s, during Mao Tse Dong's Great Leap Forward that China seriously began looking at damming the Yangtze.

Now it has the money and the technological know-how to build a structure which will rank alongside the giant Hoover Dam in America and the Aswan Dam in Egypt.



The BBC's Carrie Gracie reports on the project







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Internet Links

The Chinese Embassy's Three Gorges page

Three Gorges Campaign's website

The Discovery Channel's Valley of the Dammed (pics)

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