The Three Gorges dam, the flagship of China‘s massive hydroengineering ambitions, faces “urgent problems”, the government has warned.
In a statement approved by prime minister Wen Jiabao, the state council said the dam had pressing geological, human and ecological problems. The report also acknowledged for the first time the negative impact the dam has had on downstream river transport and water supplies.
Since the start of construction in 1992 about 16m tonnes of concrete have been poured into the giant barrier across the Yangtze river, creating a reservoir that stretches almost the length of Britain and drives 26 giant turbines.
The world’s biggest hydropower plant boasts a total generating capacity of 18,200MW and the ability to help tame the floods that threaten the Yangtze delta each summer.
But it has proved expensive and controversial due to the rehousing of 1.4 million people and the flooding of more than 1,000 towns and villages. Pollution, silt and landslides have plagued the reservoir area. Given the 254bn yuan (£24bn) cost and political prestige at stake, the government focused for many years on the dam’s achievements and attempted to stifle domestic criticism of the project. But its public analysis has become increasingly sober.