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Dam risks put 20,000 on the move this year


08:12, April 19, 2012

About 20,000 people from a county in central China's Hubei Province will be relocated by the end of this year due to the risk of landslides around the Three Gorges Dam, local authorities said yesterday.

Five times that number are due to be relocated by 2017 because of landslide risks caused by the world's biggest hydropower project.

The 20,000 account for a fifth of the population of Dongba County. The relocation process is under way, said Zhao Wenxing from the county's relocation headquarters.

Schools and hospitals that are in harm's way will be among the first buildings to be evacuated, Zhao said.

A total of 550 million yuan (US$87.3 million) is being used to fund the relocation project.

The county is prone to landslides and cave-ins, prompting local authorities to launch the relocation project to avoid casualties, Zhao said.

On Tuesday, Liu Yuan, an official with the Ministry of Land and Resources, said in a radio interview that another 100,000 people still had to be moved in three to five years because of landslide risks.

Around 1.3 million people were originally displaced to make way for the Three Gorges Dam project.

Intense debate

About a year ago, the State Council, China's Cabinet, outlined a slew of urgent environmental, geologic and economic problems related to the dam, the subject of intense debate for decades.

Many people obliged to make way for the project have struggled to regain their livelihoods and settle into new homes, that report said.

The dam was touted as the best way to end centuries of flooding along the Yangtze River and provide power for China's industrial boom. But some geologists contend that damming up too much water in the reservoir that stretches more than 600 kilometers along the middle reaches of the Yangtze carries a heightened risk of prolonged damage to the river's ecology.

The costs of the hydropower project have spiraled over the years, with total investment reaching 254 billion yuan, according to official figures, more than four times the original estimate.

The Three Gorges Project Construction Commission told China Energy News this week that an additional 123.8 billion yuan has been spent on "follow-up work."


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