The Government is pressing ahead with its plan to move 500,000 people in Sichuan province to make way for the mammoth Three Gorges Dam project. The target would have to be met by 2003 before the second phase of the dam's construction was complete, Xinhua said, quoting from a two-day conference which ended in Beijing yesterday. Altogether, 1.3 million people would have to be moved by 2009 when the dam, near Chongqing, is due for completion. The news agency said the Government had invested heavily in resettlement, spending more than 5.1 billion yuan (HK$4.7 billion) in the past year and resettling 76,000 people. Since resettlement started six years ago, 150,600 people had been moved and 355 factories and mines closed, Xinhua said. The project has drawn criticism at home and abroad, with some saying it has been badly managed, resulting in corruption. Others have attacked it for causing serious environmental damage and involuntary resettlement. Early this year, 105 cadres were detained in 95 corruption cases in connection with the project. Human rights groups have reported that many local residents resisted the Government's efforts to move because they feared they would be unable to find work or to farm after resettlement. Some local farmers have said the compensation offered by the Government is insufficient for them to start new lives because most of their new homes were built on steep hills which are unsuitable for agricultural work.