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Province lobbies hard for damming of China's largest freshwater lake

(Xinhua)

08:41, March 14, 2012

BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Officials from east China's Jiangxi have been pushing for support of a water project at the mouth of China's largest freshwater lake Poyang, but the potential impact of the project is still strongly disputed.

On the sidelines of parliament's annual session, officials and lawmakers from the province have been talking to media and meeting with central government departments to rally support.

"It's imperative to start the Poyang Lake water conserve project under the current circumstances," said Yao Mugen, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) and vice governor of Jiangxi, where the lake is located, referring to the preparatory work the province has done over the years.

The planned water conservancy project at Poyang Lake has been described vaguely by the Jiangxi provincial government as a "multi-purpose program" that will improve the area's ecology, irrigation and water supply, while helping schistosomiasis prevention and boost the development of shipping, tourism and fishing industries.

Local officials are reluctant to call the project "a dam," but rather describe it as "a sluice gate" at the mouth of Poyang where water from the lake flows into the Yangtze.

"In fact, the water conservancy project at Poyang Lake is a sluice gate, not a dam," said Hu Zhenpeng, who is also a deputy to the NPC, China's top legislature. "It will only help maintain water levels during the drought season but won't disturb the high water flows during the flood season."

Those who question the project said the water project could have a negative impact, as building a dam on the lake will cut off its link with the Yangtze, threaten the ecological system and might worsen droughts during the low-water season and destroy wetlands.

Damming the Poyang from the Yangtze river has also raised concerns that the project may affect water supply to the downstream of the river, particularly during drought seasons.

"The dam and its hydropower stations will bring disastrous damage to Poyang's ecology and wildlife," said Cao Wenxuan, a biologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Cao and 14 other academicians submitted a report to the State Council, or China's cabinet, opposing the proposal to construct a dam at the lake.

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