BEIJING - The Chinese government will invest 124 billion yuan ($19 billion) during the coming 10 years on follow-up projects associated with the Three Gorges Dam, an official who was in charge of the project told China Daily.
The investment will mainly be used for infrastructure construction in the 20 counties where people were resettled following the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The money will also pay for environmental protection and natural disaster prevention, said Gao Jinbang, former deputy director of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee Executive Office under the State Council.
Gao said the State Council has agreed to the general plan. The details will be made public later this year after the final touches are added.
About 1.3 million people were displaced during the building of the dam, which comprises the world's largest water control and hydropower project. The displaced people were resettled in 20 counties close to the dam in Chongqing municipality and Hubei province.
"Despite the fact that they have settled down in new houses, they face difficult challenges associated with their changing lifestyles and the need to find work," Gao said.
The Three Gorges Project caused the flooding of large tracts of agricultural land. Most people who were displaced by the project were uneducated farmers who lost their livelihoods.
"The population density increased greatly in the area, while the amount of arable land was reduced, therefore the government has to help them learn new professions, such as work in the labor-intensive electronic industry and in tourism," said Gao.
According to the plan, about 50 billion yuan will be invested in infrastructure in the counties on such things as job training, tourism development and the construction of schools. The executive office will also help ensure investment flows to local companies.
Environmental protection and geological disaster prevention efforts will also be supported.
While he admitted that "inevitable loss was imposed on the ecology, especially because of the loss of the habitat of some aquatic animals and plants", Gao said the project had played an invaluable role in flood prevention and in the generation of electricity and said it should be evaluated as having brought more "benefits than harm".
The project is capable of generating 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.
By the end of 2010, it had generated more than 440 billion kWh of electricity since it started to generate power in 2003.
However, natural disasters have loomed.
When the water level of the Three Gorges Reservoir rose to its highest level of 175 meters in September 2010, 97 sections of bank collapsed and 2,000 people were evacuated, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources.
"That was because the water level of the reservoir keeps changing and causes imbalance along the two sides leading to the collapses," Gao said.
"The plan emphasizes ensuring the safety of local people. However, it's a natural process and it will take about seven or eight years before balance is achieved."
Construction of the multi-functional water control system began in 1992 as part of the nation's strategy to provide energy and prevent floods and drought.
(China Daily 03/21/2011 page4)