(December 13, 2005) Millions living along the Yangtze River are hopeful that the big dam will finally tame the unruly river. But observers who have studied China’s efforts to curb the Yangtze via the massive construction project are far less upbeat.
Nanjing: The construction of China’s vast Three Gorges Dam project to harness the mighty Yangtze means this year’s flooding along the river will be the last, many locals believe – but experts are not so confident. The long-planned Three Gorges scheme, the world’s largest hydro- electric project, will from next year create a reservoir eventually spanning more than 600 kilometres (375 miles). The closer it comes to completion, the more millions living along the Yangtze – where summer flooding has been a fact for many centuries – are hopeful the unruly river will finally be tamed. “In the future, floods will happen less frequently, or maybe not at all,” said Tong Guoqing, a dock worker in the central city of Wuhan, near a memorial for the thousands who perished in a devastating deluge in 1954. “After the Three Gorges Dam has been completed, we can finally start regulating the Yangtze.” However observers who have studied China’s efforts to curb the Yangtze via the massive – and massively expensive – construction project are far less upbeat. “The Three Gorges Dam alone most likely can’t solve all the Yangtze’s flood problems,” said Jim Harkness, chief China representative for conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “We support more comprehensive types of flood management.” When the dam is completed at the end of this decade, it will have cost in excess of 20 billion dollars, giving a massive incentive to Beijing to keep the generators humming even if the river were to rise above danger levels. This could hit flood-prevention efforts, experts believe. “In order to continue operating at normal pool levels to maintain power generation, they will probably not use the dam to try to control a flood like this year’s,” said a Beijing-based observer who asked not to be identified.
Agence France-Presse, December 13, 2005