As the massive Three Gorges Dam project enters its next phase, critics charge that issues ranging from environmental protection to the forced relocation of 1.1 million people have yet to be properly dealt with. 'Despite two-thirds of the Three Gorges Dam construction project being finished, problems such as environmental protection and migration are not yet solved,' said Kevin Li Yuk-shing, a researcher for the International Rivers Network, a US concern group. The Three Gorges Dam was begun in 1992 and is expected to be completed by 2009 at a cost of 198 billion yuan (HK$187 billion). China hopes the project will control flooding of the Yangtze River and generate 84.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, but critics have argued it could also have a disastrous impact on displaced people and the environment. Experts have been warning for years that the dam will cause waterways to silt up. Professor Luna Leopold of the University of California said four years ago that larger pieces of gravel and stones would drop to the riverbed and accumulate at the head of the reservoir. The claim was backed by Lu Qinkan, a retired official from the Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power, who was quoted in a book by Beijing-based journalist Dai Qing as saying sedimentation would worsen the flooding problem at Chongqing. Mainland officials admitted there were problems, but said critics were exaggerating. More than 1.1 million people living around the Three Gorges Dam area have been forced to leave their homes because the land they live on will be flooded when the dam is completed. There have been reports of resettlement funds being embezzled, misappropriated or illegally used. Disgruntled migrants have clashed with police. According to Mr Li of the International Rivers Network, some migrants are still missing following these protests. He called for the authorities to release information about the missing people. The deputy general manager of the dam's contractor insists all 40 billion yuan spent so far on the project has been properly accounted for. Officials claim that the funds reported as being misappropriated have since been recovered. Three Gorges Project vice-president Li Yongan said on Tuesday that the State Council had made stringent demands that the project's funds be properly managed, the official China News Agency reported yesterday.