Dams and Landslides

Mountains of trash fished from China’s Three Gorges Dam

(November 4, 2010) Workers in central China have fished 3,800 tonnes of rubbish out of the Three Gorges Dam in just six days, state media said, as the trash threatened to jam up the massive structure.

The clean-up process, which began on October 26 when the water level in the dam’s reservoir hit its maximum capacity, saw 100 people sent out in 15 boats daily, the China Daily quoted Wang Yafei, head of the operation, as saying.

Over six days, the workers in Hubei province pulled out more than 600 tonnes of trash a day — or a total of 3,800 tonnes — which consisted mainly of tree trunks, branches and straw, the report said.

Household garbage is also a problem, as more than 150 million people live upstream from the dam, and trash is sometimes dumped directly into the Yangtze river because nearby municipalities are unequipped for waste disposal.

China considers the 22-billion-dollar Three Gorges Dam a modern wonder. Since its completion in 2008, it has pumped out much-needed hydroelectricity, increased shipping on the Yangtze and helped reduce flooding.

The garbage was threatening the operation of the dam’s 26 power generators, the report said.

“All of the salvaged garbage will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There will be no disposal in rivers and nearby places,” Wang was quoted as saying.

In August, heavy rains and floods in the area had washed a lot of rubbish into the Yangtze, China’s longest waterway, causing concern as it created a pile-up threatening to jam the dam.

The garbage was so thick in parts of the river that people could walk on the surface, state media reported at the time.

Chen Lei, an official with the China Three Gorges Corporation, said in August up to 200,000 cubic metres (seven million cubic feet) of garbage — the equivalent of 80 Olympic-sized pools — is collected from the dam every year.

The corporation spends about 10 million yuan (1.5 million dollars) per year to clear floating waste, the newspaper said.

Critics charge the dam has caused ecological damage and increased landslides in the area. About 1.4 million people were displaced by the dam, the construction of which put several heritage sites deep underwater.

AFP, November 4, 2010

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