[Marxism] China Vows to Pursue Three Gorges Fixes (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 21 07:02:39 MST 2007

Only those whose crystal ball can predict with 20-20 accuracy what will
happen can be sure if this project, one of the largest human-initiated
experiments in human history, will succeed, or will fail. Evidently the
Chinese government is listening to the critics and is trying to take a
series of measures to resolve the many observed problems. Should they 
succeed, it will be a powerful political victory for the leadership of
the People's Republic of China. If they fail, it will, of course, be a
political disaster. If they fail, there will be plenty of gloating all
around, especially from those who assume they cannot succeed, and thus,
don't want them to succeed. Another possible option may well be some 
mixture of success and failure. We'll see. While my hope is, of course, 
that they do succeed, facts are stubborn things and will out in the end.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

China Vows to Pursue Three Gorges Fixes
November 21, 2007; Page A4

BEIJING -- China's government is launching a series of measures to deal with
fallout from the Three Gorges Dam, further evidence of the scale of
unforeseen consequences stemming from the world's largest hydroelectric

The measures, unveiled yesterday by the official Xinhua news agency, aim to
lessen the impact of environmental and social problems worsened by the dam.
The central government will guarantee water supplies for resettled people,
enforce rules against dumping by cities along the river and set up an
emergency-response system to handle any spills.

The Three Gorges Project Committee of the State Council, the highest
government body overseeing the reservoir and the dam, will implement seven
projects to fix the environmental problems and set up a special monitoring
system to oversee them, according to Xinhua.

"It is still a long way to go if we speak of the environmental-protection
issues of the project, although more than half the construction work has
been completed," the committee said in the statement. "We want to build a
first-class hydropower facility out of the project, but we also aim for a
good environment."

Construction of the 600-foot-tall dam was officially started in 1994 after
years of delays and controversy over the merits of the project, meant to
tame the floods of the Yangtze River and generate environmentally friendly
electricity. As the dam was completed, China's longest river was blocked,
creating a 400-mile-long reservoir stretching across western China's Hubei
and Sichuan provinces and displacing some 1.4 million people. Authorities
plan to fill the reservoir to its maximum depth of 580 feet by 2009.

>From the beginning, critics have argued that the social and ecological costs
of the project were too high. The reservoir has buried ancient cities and
cultural relics as well as forced farmers onto ever more crowded slopes
along its banks, worsening erosion and deadly landslides even as farmers
struggle to eke out a living from less land. The relocation has been dogged
by accusations of widespread misappropriation of resettlement money by
corrupt officials.

The dammed river has also become increasingly dirty, as agricultural runoff,
sewage and industrial pollution backs up in the reservoir instead of getting
flushed out to sea, leading to poisonous algae outbreaks on tributaries to
the reservoir.

In its statement, the government said the environmental impact, including
landslides, had been less than expected. It said the area had already been
prone to landslides before the dam was built -- one of the major arguments
used against the dam by foes of the project. The government has spent about
$1.6 billion on countermeasures, according to the statement.

Now, the government says it wants to encourage an additional four million
people to move from the crowded banks of the reservoir and poorer inland
mountainous regions into towns and cities. The aim is to lessen the
environmental strain and to narrow the income gap between urban and rural
residents in the area.

Yesterday's announcement is just the latest step in an unfolding saga that
has gradually revealed the government's rising worries about the project.
For years, the dam was hailed as China's greatest engineering feat, which
would bring prosperity to central China. Nearly all criticism of the dam was
either suppressed or dismissed.

Then at a meeting of government experts in September, officials for the
first time acknowledged that the dam could become an environmental
"catastrophe" unless steps were taken to address the worsening pollution and
landslides. The comments were widely reported in China's state media, which
cited an August story in The Wall Street Journal about the landslides and
other unforeseen consequences of the dam.

Officials later backtracked from that harsh appraisal. Even as it
acknowledged the need for more steps to prevent problems, yesterday's
official statement said that the dam's positive results of flood control and
clean power generation still outweigh the negative effects.

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