05/20/2006, 00.00
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Three Gorges Dam inaugurated

After 13 years of work, the "most imposing public work in the country after the Great Wall" has been completed. To build it, the government displaced around two million people, destroyed valuable architectural works and risks flooding with refuse those cities touching the river .

Chongqing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze, the "Blue River", was inaugurated today in a public ceremony attended by technicians, administrators and workers who completed construction of the "most imposing public work in the country since the Great Wall".

The project took 13 years of works to complete, 10 months ahead of schedule, but it has left unresolved controversies in its wake. The dam, 2.3km long and 185 metres high, is one of the vastest engineering works ever realized anywhere in the world. But its construction was contested by human rights and environmental activists, who pointed to the severe damage it has caused.

The most evident consequence is doubtless that of people who have been displaced: Beijing may put the figure at 1.2 million people, but several humanitarian groups say with certainty that the total number is closer to two million or more.

Other controversies focus on the artistic and ecological heritage destroyed. To make way for 40 billion cubic metres of water set to fill the dam basin, five Christian churches and countless architectural works were submerged.

The total cost of works is another source of discontent voiced by opponents: the government claimed the dam cost round 22.5 billion dollars, but many foreign experts in the sector say it is "unthinkable" that the project could have been completed with anything less than 40 billion.

But all these controversies have not stopped the government; it claims all grievances are "justified" by the enormous quantity of energy the dam will manage to produce. Given the country's hunger for energy sources, the 84.7 billion kilowatt-hours per year that the dam's 26 generators – still under construction –are capable of producing, are an end that justifies any means.

Then there are concerns about pollution. Many fear the reservoir in the dam may "flood" large cities on the banks of the Blue River with refuse or leave them without drinking water.

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