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China Rejects Concerns About Three Gorges Dam

The Chinese government has rejected concerns its massive Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric project in the world, is a threat to the Yangtze River's environment and people. Despite criticism, they say the dam is actually a positive force on the environment and has improved the lives of locals. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Chinese officials in charge of the Three Gorges Dam say the environment along the Yangtze River is stable and under control, despite the dam's disruption to the ecology.

Critics had warned the massive dam and the 660-kilometer-long reservoir it created would put severe pressure on the Yangtze's aquatic life and could lead to landslides and perhaps earthquakes.

But the deputy director of the Three Gorges Dam construction committee, Wang Xiaofeng, told a press conference the damage it caused was minimal and the benefits it created with flood control and economic growth from electric power far outweigh the detriments.

"Currently I would describe it as effective control," he said. "Effective control does not mean in the future there will not be any landslides or threats that arise. But, the Chinese government is closely monitoring and increasing control. I think we can avoid big losses to people and property."

Wang said the government stocked the Yangtze with millions of fish, and the government had spent hundreds of millions on preventing soil erosion and protecting water quality, and more than a billion dollars to deal with geological threats.

He says the dam is already showing daily benefits in flood prevention, power generation, and shipping.

There have been reports of deadly landslides and bursts of algae blooms on the dam's tributaries caused by water pollution. Officials acknowledged the algae blooms were getting worse, but said they were still not a big threat.

The leader of the project's quality control panel, Pan Jiazheng, chastised the foreign media for exaggerating the damage to the environment from the dam.

Pan says the government welcomes the foreign media's questions, but says they need to be more accurate in their reporting. He says the media should not compare a kitty to a tiger.

The officials said those counties and people affected by the dam have seen fast economic growth. The government says 2007 figures show counties in the area have an economic growth of more than 14 percent, while incomes have skyrocketed by 20 percent.

More than a million mainly poor farmers have been relocated from the area flooded by the dam and some reports indicate more may be moved in the future.

Wang said there is only one county of people left to be relocated. He acknowledged some people resisted being forced to move and were dealt with according to law.

The Three Gorges dam project was planned for decades to harness the power of China's largest river and prevent flooding that has killed hundreds of thousands over the years. The main structure was completed in 2003 and the reservoir is filling.