Three Gorges Probe

Three Gorges Dam is one long, slippery slope

(June 3, 2009) Back in 2003 Probe International raised concerns that the Three Gorges dam reservoir would not have a consistent height, as resettlement planners promised, but in fact would be sloped – inundating many more thousands of people and costing millions more in losses. Probe argued that some Chinese officials had misleadingly predicted the reservoir would have a consistent height measuring 175 metres above sea level all the way from the dam itself to its tail 660 kilometres upstream, near the major city of Chongqing.

Rather, Probe reported, measurements showed that at Zigui (30 kilometres upstream of the dam) the reserovir height was 135 metres; at Fengjie (165 kilometres upstream) it was 146.7 metres; at Yunyang (225 km upstream) it was 148.4 metres; at Wanzhou (300 km upstream) it was 150 metres. “The evidence clearly pointed to a sloping reservoir,” they said.

Now,recent reportsconfirm that the Three Gorges reservoir is indeed sloped. Fan Xiao, a geologist with the Sichuan Bureau of Geological Exploration of Mineral Resources , recently said that “when the water next to the dam wall reached 172 metres, the water at the end of the reservoir was over 175 metres. Some places which should have been above the water line were inundated, so they [dam authorities] immediately stopped the water storage.”

Should the dam authorities decide to fill the reservoir to its normal pool level of 175 metres (at the dam site), the government will have to relocate individuals that it previously allowed to stay – further pushing up the cost of the project. It also adds to the evidence that the government has not been honest in detailing the total cost of the massive dam.

While the government admits that it has already spent around 180 billion yuan ($26.35 billion) on the dam, critics and foreign observers say the real figure may be twice that. Worse still, the financial magazine Caijing and other local papers say that more than $13 billion might be needed over the next decade to deal with a range of social and environmental problems.

A sloped, rather than flat, reservoir may just be one of many of these unforeseen costs.

Probe International, June 3, 2009

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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