China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Three Gorges pose environmental, health risk: Scientist

Thu Apr 27, 2:35 AM ET

Rising pollution levels in China's Three Gorges reservoir are increasing the risk of an ecological and public health disaster, a leading national scientist says.

"After water started to accumulate in the reservoir, the flow rate of the (Yangtze) river dropped, resulting in a decreased ability of the river to clean itself," the China Business Times quoted environmental expert Shu Weiqun as saying.

"Because of this, the reservoir area, with its 31 million people, has become a high ecological and public health risk area."

Shu, a professor at the environment and sanitation research institute of the People's Liberation Army's Third Medical Hospital, was last week awarded a national environmental protection award for his research into the water quality of the Three Gorges reservoir.

The award reflects the central government's determination to ensure the water remains clean in the 600-kilometer-long (372-mile) reservoir behind the controversial Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, the paper said.

The award has also given Shu a platform to air his concerns over pollution levels in the reservoir.

Since water began accumulating in the reservoir in 2003, the government has invested more than four billion yuan (500 million dollars) for at least one water treatment plant in every county surrounding the body of water, the paper said.

"But at present only 20 percent of the polluted water (flowing into the reservoir) is being treated," Shu said.

Shu also said that state water quality standards were far from adequate, as they only required the monitoring of 35 items, including only four known organic pollutants.

The professor said he had discovered 101 organic pollutants in the reservoir.

Shu urged increased spending on pollution controls and water treatment plants, higher water quality standards for the reservoir and a pollution control law to cover the entire Yangtze river basin, it said.

China is expected to announce the completion of the construction phase of the dam in the coming weeks, although the last set of power generators will not go on line for two more years.

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