Signs of the The River Dragon?


Too many mind
Feb 22, 2003
Belfast, UK
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BEIJING (AFP) - China's Three Gorges project officially began storing water in its huge reservoir amid ongoing concerns over cracks in the controversial 25 billion dollar dam.

The dam's 22 sluice gates and 19 of 23 water diversion holes at the base of the dam were shut beginning at midnight Saturday (1600 GMT) as water levels rose to 106 meters by noon Sunday, reported state television, which broadcast the closing of the gates.

The water level behind the dam in central Hubei province will initially rise by four to five meters (13 feet to 16 feet) daily and is expected to have reached 135 meters (443 feet) by June 15.

Navigation on the Yangtze River near Yichang, where the dam is located, has been stopped, meaning that tourists hoping to catch a last glimpse of the scenic gorges before they are largely engulfed by water, will have to wait until June 16 for cruise tours to resume.

After two weeks, the reservoir should be 436 kilometers (260 miles) long, although much of the scenic Three Gorges area will still be visible for several more years.

Construction of the world's largest hydroelectric dam is slated for completion in 2009, with the dam's third construction phase, which includes the installation of most of the generators, about to begin.

The closing of the sluice gates comes after a general inspection of the dam in mid-May revealed that repair work to fix large cracks on the dam's 185 meter-high concrete face was not completely successful.

"We found that some of the vertical cracks on the dam that were repaired have reopened, even though we put a great deal of money and effort into the repair work," Pan Jiazheng, an engineer said in a speech following the end of the inspection.

"It would be a mistake to think that because we have the second phase of construction behind us, we would have nothing to worry about.

"We have a long way to go, as we enter the third phase of the dam construction, I hope we will do our best to build a first-class project rather than a dam with 10-metre-long cracks," he said in the speech published by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission.

Pan, 75, a member of the Academy of Sciences of China and the former deputy director of the Engineering Academy, added, "We should absolutely not be proud of ourselves."

The cracks, which first appeared in October 1999 on the upstream face of the 480-meter-long spillway section of the dam, brought into question the construction quality of the dam after they were publicly revealed in March last year.

Officials have said that the cracks extended from one meter to 1.25 meters into the dam before the repairs, but downplayed any potential risks to the structure.

The highly controversial project has been criticized as an environmental disaster and the destroyer of a cultural and historic tradition in the scenic gorges that have been the center of life on the Yangtze river for millennia.

Naysayers have questioned whether the vast amount of energy generated by the dam, some 84.7 billion kilowatts a year, can be sold, while doubting the huge project's ability to control floods on the river's traditional flood plains hundreds of kilometers downstream.

The dam's flood control capabilities could come under scrutiny as early as this summer, with Chinese meteorologists predicting a heavier than normal rainy season along the river below the dam.

The State Meteorological Bureau says rainfall in the Dongting and Poyang lake areas downstream of the dam is likely to be 20 percent greater than normal this summer.

"It's true that in the decade since we started building the dam, we have experienced many types of floods, but this year floods will be really serious," Pan said.

Some 39 billion cubic metres of water will be stored in the reservoir by 2009, with natural forces such as floods, earthquakes (news - web sites) and landslides, becoming the "real examiners" of the project, Pan said.

Over 600,000 people have already been relocated to make way for the huge dam, with nearly a half a million local farmers and villagers still awaiting relocation before 2009. "

taken from Yahoo News
Sun Jun 1,11:20 AM ET