Three Gorges Probe

Respect initial Three Gorges dam plan or risk disaster, Chinese experts warn

July 17, 2000

Senior engineers and academics submitted this second protest letter, with an attached petition to China’s leaders in June, 2000. They point out the technical problems of siltation and population movements.

Leading Chinese engineer/hydrologist Lu Qinkan and 52 senior engineers and academics submitted this second protest letter to China’s leaders in June, 2000. This is the experts’ response to the State Council’s Three Gorges Construction Committee’s reply to their March petition.

June 2000
To: Jiang Zemin, President of the People’s Republic of China
Li Peng, Chairman of the National People’s Congress
Zhu Rongji, Premier of the People’s Republic of China
Li Ruihuan, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)

As for the two key problems with the Three Gorges dam project – resettlement and siltation – the 1992 National People’s Congress resolution to maintain an initial water level of 156 metres is a cautious plan. However, we are deeply concerned that the dam builders will raise the Three Gorges reservoir level to 175 metres by 2009. Such a move would increase the resettlement burden and could produce a severe siltation problem at Chongqing port. This is our second petition urging the central government to respect the 1992 resolution.

The response we received in May from the State Council’s Three Gorges Construction Committee appears to reject our arguments for keeping the Three Gorges reservoir at the initial water level of 156 metres. We are afraid that if the dam builders try to raise the level to 175 metres by 2009, the increase would not only require the displacement of a staggering 500,000 people in three years (between 2006 and 2009), it would also block navigation at the Yangtze’s upper reaches due to increased siltation at Chongqing port.

In response to the State Council’s assurances that 1) Three Gorges dam officials will respect the 1992 resolution and 2) that the potential silt problem has been resolved:

1. A number of publications indicate that the dam builders’ plan to fill the reservoir to 175 metres by 2009 in violation of the National People’s Congress resolution passed in 1992.

In our first petition we referred to a book published by Xinxing Publishing House, but there are other official reports and speeches that indicate a deliberate move on the part of China Three Gorges Project Development Corporation to ignore the 1992 NPC resolution and raise the water level to 175 metres in 2009.

They include:

A speech made by He Gong, Deputy General Manager of China’s Three Gorges Project Development Corporation in 1999. He said: “By 2009 when the Three Gorges Project is completed, the reservoir will rise to the normal level of 175 metres above sea level.”

A People’s Daily story on August 31, 1998, in which Lu Youmei, General Manager of the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation was quoted as saying: “By 2009, when the project is completed, the flood control capacity of the reservoir will be 22.1 billion cubic metres.” According to our calculations, this could only be achieved by raising the water level to 175 metres.

In January, 1999, document no. 41 by the Ministry of Water Resources states that the Three Gorges Project, when completed, will retain a 175-metre water level and will have a flood control capacity of 22.15 billion cubic metres.

Document no. 54 by the State Council’s Three Gorges Construction Committee in 1995, entitled “Report on Water Levels of Major Cities and Townships in the Three Gorges Project.” According to this report, the water level after the flood season would be 156 metres in 2006, and 175 metres in 2009.

2. The following issues related to siltation monitoring and assessment have not been paid attention to:

A study by the Beijing Water Institute’s Siltation Study Centre in July 1988, entitled “Study on impacts of 1954 flood on Chongqing Port,” demonstrated that silt deposit would be a severe problem at Chongqing port when the Three Gorges reservoir level is raised to 175 metres. The dam builders have ignored these findings.

The devastating flood in 1998 indicated that the flood volume was only 4.7 percent more than the 1954 flood, however, the silt content carried by the flood was 17.7 percent more than that of 1954. This points to a more serious siltation problem.

The dam builders have proposed to construct three more dams at the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in an attempt to block some of the silt inflow at the Three Gorges dam. They are: the Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba dams at the Jinsha River and the Jianting Zikou project at the Jialing River. Combined, they are expected to control 304 million tons of silt – 57 percent of the expected silt inflow at Three Gorges. However, there still remains about 200 to 300 million tons of silt flowing into the Three Gorges reservoir annually. Therefore, the claim made by the dam builders that the siltation issue has been solved is invalid.

3. The dam builders should consider using diversion outlets at the bottom of the Three Gorges dam for flushing out silt. This method of flushing silt, especially small gravel, has been tested and is a proven success. We suggest that the current engineering design be modified to ensure that the diversion outlets at the bottom of the dam are not sealed and can be used to release silt, should a serious silt deposit problem occur.

4.Resettlement If the Three Gorges reservoir is filled to 175 metres, 1.13 million people will be displaced. However, the 156-metre water level would reduce the resettlement population to 650,000 – producing a large saving in resettlement costs. Retaining the water level at 156 metres would also save three county seats, four large factories and many cultural and historical relics from being submerged. This level also falls below the natural water level at Chongqing and therefore would not affect the city’s existing drainage system.

5. The lower reservoir level would generate quite substantial economic benefits, and the water level could be raised later on if no serious problems occurred. In view of the benefits, we do not understand why the dam builders are in such a rush to raise the level to 175 metres, nor do we understand why they would deliberately ignore the NPC’s 1992 resolution.

For the sake of our people and future generations, we sincerely appeal to the central government to urge the dam builders to respect the 1992 resolution, rather than risk damaging a project of great importance to our country.

Mao Zhaoxi, professor at the Zhejiang University, NPC member, ex-CPPCC member
Xu Qiashi, consultant to the Water Bureau of Zhejiang Province, ex-NPC member
Qing Changgeng, expert member of the Surveying Institute of Kunming, ex-NPC member
Xu Zongjun, professor at the Chongqing University, CPPCC member, ex-NPC member
Lei Hengshun, professor at the Chongqing University, CPPCC member, ex-NPC member
Jiang Zejia, professor at the Chongqing University, ex-president, ex-NPC member
Cheng Xuemin, expert with the electricity group of the Three Gorges feasibility study, ex- CPPCC member Luo Zhewen, senior engineer at the State Cultural Relics Bureau, ex-CPPCC member Xie Chensheng, ex-consultant to the State Cultural Relics Bureau, ex-CPPCC member Zhu Zaowen, member of the technical committee of the Surveying Institute of Chengdu, ex-CPPCC member Wei Yunlong, president of Engineering College of Shantou University, CPPCC member Zheng Zegen, professor at the Architecture University of Chongqing, CPPCC member Dou Ruihua, professor at the Communication College of Chongqing, CPPCC member, vice-chairman of Chongqing CPPCC Li Ming, deputy president at the Teachers University of Southwest, CPPCC member, vice-chairman of Chongqing CPPCC Liu Huijun, CPPCC member, vice-chairman of Chongqing CPPCC Yu Ronggen, professor and deputy president of Chongqing Academy of Social Sciences, CPPCC member Feng Guangrong, professor and president of Sichuan Foreign Languages College, CPPCC member
Chen Jingqiu, professor at the Chongqing University, CPPCC member
Wu Yunhan, vice-chairman of the Democratic Construction Party of Chongqing, CPPCC member
Lu Guoji, president of Minsheng Corporation, CPPCC member
Wu Chuanjun, fellow of China’s Academy of Science, president of the China Society of Geography
Zhang Youshi, PhD, senior researcher and ex-deputy director of the Natural Resources Surveying Committee of China’s Academy of Science
Lei Shuxuan, ex-senior consulting member of the Ministry of ElectricityWeng Changfu, chief
engineer and deputy director of the Planning Committee of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, special expert to the Three Gorges Project Reviewing Committee
Huang Jinglue, senior researcher of the China Cultural Relics Institute, head of the expert group of the State Cultural Relics Bureau
Yu Weichao, director of China’s History Museum, head of the Three Gorges project cultural protection group
Ye Yongyi, advisor to China’s Water and Hydroelectric Institute, head of the hydrology group of the Three Gorges project feasibility study
Wen Shanzhang, senior engineer, committee member of the technology group of the Yellow River Water Committee
Tao Wei, consultant to Dongfang Electric Machinery, ex-head and chief engineer
Tian Fang, member of the consulting group to the State Planning Committee, ex-deputy head of the Economic Study Institute
Jin Yongtang, senior engineer of China’s Water and Hydroelectric Institute
Li Changhua, ex-director of River and Port Centre of Nanjing Water Science Institute
Zhang Bingyou, ex-deputy director of Material Structural Group of Nanjing Water Science Institute
Xu Zida, senior engineer of Nanjing Hydrology and Water Resources Institute
Lin Fatang, senior researcher of the Economic Institute of the State Development Planning Committee
Fan Dainian, senior researcher of the Science and Technological Policy and Management Institute of China’s Academy of Science
Lei Guangchun, professor at the Peking University, director of Yangtze Project of World’s Nature Fund
Huang Runhua, professor of environmental studies at the Peking University
Liu Yukai, ex-deputy chief of the Natural Ecology Department of the State Environmental Protection Bureau
Qi Fudong, senior engineer of Central South Surveying Institute, senior researcher of Central South Machinery Institute
Jin Shaochou, senior lecturer of geography at the No. 3 Teachers College of Beijing
Wang Yunqiu, professor at the Hehai University; advisor to Jiangsu provincial government
Chen Changdu, professor at the Peking University, expert in the environmental and ecological group of the Three Gorges project feasibility study
Cui Haiting, professor of urban and environmental studies at the Peking University
Fang Kaize, senior engineer, professor of civil engineering at the Hehai University
Zhang Erjun, professor at the Hehai University
Yang Keji, professor at the Hehai University
Zhou Qixiang, ex-deputy chief engineer of the Management Department of Nanjing Port
Lou Yuxi, ex-deputy chief engineer at the No. 21 Institute of Xian, No. 14 Institute of Nanjing, the Ministry of Electric Power
Qian Rutai, ex-engineering director of the Yellow River Sanmenxia Engineering Bureau’s power division
Zhang Weibang, professor at the Shanxi University, ex-director of geology, head of Shanxi Provincial Society of Geography Yao Qiming, professor at the Shanxi University, ex-chair of the Department of Geography, Deputy head of Shanxi Provincial Society of Geography
Written and organized by Lu Qinkan, ex-consultant to the flood control group of the Three Gorges project feasibility study, ex-CPPCC member

[Translated by Mu Lan, Executive Editor, Three Gorges Probe] Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. However, it is not a forum for political debate. Rather, Three Gorges Probe is dedicated to covering the scientific, technical, economic, social, and environmental ramifications of completing the Three Gorges Project, as well as the alternatives to the dam.

Publisher: Patricia Adams Assistant Editor: Lisa Peryman Executive Editor: Mu Lan ISSN 1481-0913

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