Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

More people moved in China near Three Gorges dam

The Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges dam is the world's biggest hydroelectric project

Another 300,000 people are to be moved from their homes near China's Three Gorges dam, according to state media.

It is unclear if the relocations are directly because of the dam and its reservoir but almost 1.3 million people have already been moved from the area.

The Three Gorges project is expected to produce 100bn kilowatt-hours of electricity a year at full capacity.

The dam is the biggest in the world, and opponents have long criticised its huge human and environmental costs.

Controversial project

Initial reports quoted the China Daily as saying that people were being moved to prevent pollution in the reservoir, and to protect people against hazards like landslides. A Three Gorges spokesman has since denied this.

Hu Jiahai, a deputy of the local people's congress, told the newspaper: "An eco-screen, or buffer belt, is waiting for approval to be built alongside the reservoir to improve the water quality of the Yangtze River streams and reduce the contamination from residents living nearby.

"Additionally, more people will have to move out of the area to avoid geographic hazards, like landslides," he added.

He said the exact number who would need to move depended on an assessment of the geology of the area.

But Peng Yehua from China Three Gorges Corporation told the BBC: "These people's relocation is not a part of the Three Gorges Dam relocation project."

"This relocation of 300,000 is a decision of the Chongqing government, to move residents from high mountain areas with harsh living conditions into better lands."

The Three Gorges dam has been controversial from its inception.

It was championed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Officially, the infrastructure project has cost $27.2bn (£16.7m), but others believe the real price could be much higher.

Critics claim it will cause massive environmental destruction, and others say the forced resettlement of nearby villagers has left many without compensation.

Scientists also caused concern when they said the massive weight of the swelling reservoir was causing an increase in seismic activity and landslides in the area.

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