04/09/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Costs rise for Three Gorges Dam: another 100 billion yuan earmarked

The new spending is only to address the many problems caused by the work: constant landslides, pollution, the relocation of 1.4 million people. The risk of landslides is high, because of the immense pressure from the water in the basin, and rainfall.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China will have to spend at least 100 billion yuan (about 10 billion euros) over the next 10 years, to address the enormous social and environmental problems caused by the giant Three Gorges Dam, 185 meters high.

The Yangtze River Water Resources company says that it will need it least 98.9 billion yuan by 2020, in order to remedy and prevent landslides, restore polluted areas, and complete the relocation of 1.4 million people evacuated from 20 cities and counties in Chongqing and Hubei, in part by helping them to start new economic activities after their farms and businesses were flooded.

The spring rains and the seasonal rise in the water level, which has reached a height of 175 meters, have increased the risk of landslides along the banks of the dam, which could displace enough earth to block the course of the river: in the county of Yunyang (Chongqing), a wall of 3.6 million cubic meters of earth could collapse. Out of precaution, 55 people have been evacuated from the area, but yesterday Xinhua said that the area is stable, and that experts agree that there is no imminent danger. Memories are still fresh of the landslide that killed dozens of people in the spring of 2008.

In any case, the geologist Fan Xiao has warned that a landslide could be caused by heavy rainfall.

According to the Ministry of Land Resources, there are about 3,000 landslide-prone sites in the reservoir area, one third of which are densely populated by the communities displaced for the dam project. Beijing has spent billions of euros to stop landslides, but only 355 spots have been secured so far.

Meanwhile, there is growing controversy over the immense and unexpected costs of a project that is increasingly believed to be a hazard created to fulfill the ambitions of their leaders, and not for any effective usefulness. According to official data from 2008, the dam has already cost 16.6 billion euros, in addition to the 1.2 billion already spent for "environmental restoration." But experts maintain that many of the costs have not been considered, like those necessary for the relocation and resettlement of 1.4 million people, and the destruction of farms and other businesses.

Wang Xiaofeng, executive director of the State Council's Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, says that it is "unlikely" that the work will be completed and inaugurated by 2009, as initially projected.

The critics also observe that Beijing has not yet explained why the project requires more and more investment, leading to fears that not all of the consequences were fully considered.

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