Project ahead of schedule

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 12:00am

WITH THE COMPLETION of the reservoir behind the US$25 billion (HK$195 billion) Three Gorges Dam, engineers have set a June 1 date for closing the sluice gates and storing up water, state press said this week.

Construction work on the reservoir behind the dam was completed two weeks ahead of schedule, with engineers expecting the water to rise from the present 80 metres to 135 metres by June 15, Xinhua news agency said.

When completed in 2009, the Three Gorges Dam, located near the city of Yichang in central Hubei province, will be the world's biggest hydroelectric dam.

Water in the upper reaches of the reservoir will only rise by some five metres daily in order to ensure the safety of shipping, the report said.

A huge lake that will form behind the dam will stretch some 600 kilometres upstream, nearly to the city of Chongqing.

Electricity production is scheduled to go on line in August, according to an official of the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation, builder of the project.

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

When finished, the dam will boast 26 power generating units with a combined peak capacity of 18.2 million kilowatt hours.

The highly controversial project has been criticised 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 thousands of years.

People who oppose the project have questioned whether the vast amount of energy generated by the dam can be sold, while doubting the huge project's ability to control floods on the river's traditional flood plains hundreds of kilometres downstream.