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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
'Cracks' in China's Three Gorges dam
Map, BBC
A senior Chinese official says cracks have appeared in the controversial Three Gorges hydroelectric dam being built on the Yangtze river.

Qian Zhengying, the former minister of water resources who heads an expert group on the dam, returned from a week-long inspection of the project demanding that the cracks be "repaired fastidiously", according to the state-controlled China Daily.

Resettled child, AP
More than one million people are being resettled
There have been consistent rumours that the 185-metre-high (605 feet) dam, which entails the removal of entire villages to higher ground, is being shoddily constructed, amid reports of endemic corruption in the project.

But the China Daily report represents an usually frank admission that the dam has serious shortcomings and some leaders are now critical of the project.

"During the past three years, concrete placement in the project has not been first class, causing a variety of related accidents and drawbacks, though the concrete process has improved compared with previous years," Ms Qian was quoted as saying.

The cracks measure a maximum 1.25 millimetres across and 2.5 metres deep, according to China Daily.

The paper said cracks had also been found in the project's permanent ship-locks and ship-lifts.

Costly project

The Chinese Government's prestige project is hugely costly - officially it is expected to cost at least US$24bn but unofficial estimates say it could cost at least three times that amount.

Yangtze flood, BBC
China hopes the dam will stop devastating floods
It has been bedevilled by corruption. In 2000, 97 officials were convicted of embezzlement from the dam fund.

Activists have criticised the enforced resettlement of those whose homes lay in the 600 kilometre-long (375 miles) area, which will form the Three Gorges reservoir and the loss of many historic buildings and artefacts that will be drowned.

The dam is intended to control China's notorious flooding problem. But engineers have questioned whether the dam will be effective, citing problems with sedimentation and the construction itself.

See also:

12 Mar 02 | Business
Giant China dam seeks funds
21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
China's costly dam project
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Gorges corruption scandal
21 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
China uncovers corruption rackets
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese villagers dig up tombs
16 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
China dam faces cash flow crisis
23 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese dams damned
12 Apr 02 | Business
China investment boom speeds up
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