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Three Gorges Dam to Create Giant Cesspool

[Agence France Presse (AFP); November 13, 2000.]

BEIJING, Nov 13, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) A reservoir created by China's Three Gorges Dam will become a giant cesspool because of pollution that is threatening the Yangtze River, a monitoring group said Monday.

Some 1.18 billion tons of wastewater discharged annually into the Yangtze by the city of Chongqing is expected to increase pollution around the city by 34 percent once the dam and reservoir are completed, the Canadian group Probe International said.

Pollution at stretches down river from Chongqing, at Fuling and Wanshou, will increase by 57 percent, Probe said, citing Chinese reports. The 27-billion-dollar dam, slated to be the world's largest, will create a 632-square kilometer (252-square-mile) reservoir above the dam and is due to be completed in 2009.

Chongqing presently discharges some 940 million tons of industrial waste water and 245 million tons of domestic sewage annually into the river, with only 28 percent of industrial and eight percent of urban domestic waste water treated, the group said.

During a 10-day survey by Chongqing's Southwest Normal University, "students found that around 100 papermaking, chemical, and glass factories were discharging untreated water into the river, some of which is 15 times more polluted than national allowable standards," Probe said.

The dam, which has been a pet project of China's number two leader Li Peng, has been mired in corruption scandals and a controversial campaign to resettle some 1.3 million farmers to make way for the reservoir. Probe said the dam's highly-praised "flood control" functions would also slow down the flow of the river and lower its capacity to flush out the increasing pollutants into the East China Sea near Shanghai.

"Because of pollution from its riverside towns and cities, many people are concerned that the Three Gorges dam will transform the river into a sluggish and polluted artificial lake," the group said.

From Panzhihua, where the Three Gorges Dam is located, to Shanghai there are 22 cities and 394 sources discharging more than 20 billion tons of waste water a year into the Yangtze. "One third of this wastewater discharge does not meet national standards for sewage treatment," it said.


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