Advanced Search
Business | Metro | Nation | World | Sports | Features | Specials | Delta Stories
4 million people must move to save dam's ecology
12/10/2007 9:39

China plans to relocate at least four million more people from the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area in the next 10 to 15 years to protect the area's ecological safety.

The US$25 billion dam near Chongqing, in southwest China, is the world's largest hydropower project, but experts and public officials now warn that areas around the dam are paying a heavy environmental cost.

They cite erosion and landslides on steep hills around the dam, land shortages and "ecological deterioration caused by irrational development."

"The reservoir area has a vulnerable ecological environment, and the natural conditions make large-scale urbanization impossible there," said Chongqing Vice Mayor Yu Yuanmu.

The area is already suffering from overpopulation and poor conditions as a result of industrial development, the official said.

Chongqing is a major industrial and commercial hub, and its history dates back more than 3,000 years.

In March 1997, the city, which sits on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, was approved as a centrally administered municipality, the fourth after Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. It was expected to spearhead economic development in China's central and western regions.

Covering 82,000 square kilometers, the municipality has a population of more than 27.9 million, 55 percent of whom live in rural areas.

On June 7, Chongqing and Chengdu, capital of neighboring Sichuan Province, were selected by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, as pilot cities to work toward balanced development between urban and rural areas.

Planners estimate that Chongqing will have a population of 30 million by 2010, with 16.15 million in urban areas, an urbanization rate of 53.8 percent. Urban residents are expected to comprise 21.6 million of the city's total population of 31 million by 2020, an urbanization rate of 70 percent.

Last month, officials and experts admitted that the Three Gorges Dam project had caused an array of ecological harm and said that if preventive measures are not taken, the situation could lead to an environmental "catastrophe."

Tan Qiwei, also a Chongqing vice mayor, told a forum in Wuhan that the shore of the reservoir had collapsed in 91 places, with a total of 36 kilometers caving in.

Frequent geological disasters have threatened the lives of residents around the reservoir area, said Huang Xuebin, chief of the Headquarters for Prevention and Control of Geological Disasters in the Three Gorges Reservoir.

Construction of the project has already caused the resettlement of 1.2 million people.