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China has acknowledged new problems at the notorious $37 billion Three Gorges Dam.A statement today from the Wen Jiabao and the State Council said the dam had caused severe problems to the environment, shipping, agricultural irrigation and water supplies in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, according to Global Times.
Other unspecified problems were mentioned: “Problems emerged at various stages of project planning and construction but could not be solved immediately, and some arose because of increased demands brought on by economic and social development,” the statement said.
Currently a severe drought is affecting 4 million people in the region downstream of the giant dam.
Three Gorges was already controversial because to build it the government flooded 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,600 villages. The dam was supposed to help with China water supply issues, but its primary use was as the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.
Experts at Guardian say the timing of this announcement may suggest a move away from hydroelectric power:
Peter Bosshard of International Rivers said: “While powerful factions within the government are pushing for the rapid expansion of hydropower projects, others are warning of the social and environmental cost of large dams and the geological risks of building such projects in seismically active regions.
“By highlighting the unresolved problems of the Three Gorges dam now, Premier Wen Jiabao, who has stopped destructive projects in the past, may be sending a shot across the bow of a zealous hydropower lobby which would be only too happy to forget about the lessons of the past.”