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100,000 people in China's Three Gorges Dam area facing relocation

2012/04/18 14:25:18

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) An additional 100,000 people living in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area are facing relocation because of mounting geological hazards, according to an official with China's Ministry of Land and Resources.

In an interview with China National Radio on Monday, Liu Yuan, an inspector with the ministry's Department of Geological Environment, said the relocation would be necessary because of the consequences of filling the dam to high water levels.

When reservoirs are filled to their highest levels, landslides and river bank collapses can be expected within three to five years, Liu said, and the dam has been filled to its highest level of 175 meters several times since 2009.

The number of landslides and collapses along water banks has increased since then, with 70 percent of them "sudden incidents," Liu said.

The landslides not only endanger people living around the reservoir, but also create surging waves that threaten shipping operations along the Yangtze River, Liu said, and measures need to be taken to prevent future disasters.

He said work would be carried out to stabilize 355 sites where rock falls or collapses had already occurred, and another 5,386 potentially dangerous sites would be monitored. In addition, 100,000 people will have to be relocated, Liu said.

An estimated 1.4 million people were originally displaced from their homes along the Yangtze River to make way for the US$28 billion dam.

Liu, who also heads the Three Gorges Geological Disaster Prevention Office, said round-the-clock monitoring and an early warning and response system had prevented any casualties from geological disasters in the area over the past nine years.

But he said it was hard to be optimistic about the future of disaster prevention in the area, which is why the idea of relocating more people was being considered.

The Three Gorges Dam, locating in Yichang in Hubei Province, is the world's largest hydropower project. The dam has drawn widespread criticism from environmentalists, and its construction sparked a spate of disputes over the mass relocation of residents and historical monuments.

The Chinese government admitted in 2011 that the dam has had a negative impact on the environment and migration.

(By Flor Wang)
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