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Three Gorges Dam Leaves Some Chinese Swamped


China's Three Gorges Dam has set off a substantial debate over its costs -- both human and environmental -- and its benefits. Because of the dam, more than a million people have been relocated, and before the water level reaches its peak, another 400,000 will need to move. China allocated billions of dollars to help relocate families, but some villagers say corrupt local officials have taken their money. Sam Beattie has more from the Three Gorges Dam.

In just a few more years, there will be no more higher ground for Fu Xiuqiong to seek.

The water has been rising around her farm land near Gaoyang, ever since the Three Gorges Dam reservoir in central China began filling in 2003.

Fu says she cannot afford to move away. She says her family was never given the compensation the government promised. "Now sitting here, it is extremely hard to survive. We are not able to leave. After the big migration, they didn't give us land, and we didn't get any of the money from the government."

The Three Gorges Project is the world's largest dam, hailed by Chinese media as an engineering feat to match another record breaker -- the Great Wall of China.

Officials from China's State Council say the dam was built to stop centuries of flooding in the Yangtze River Delta, and to create environmentally friendly energy. But critics say the dam itself is to blame for massive environmental and geological problems.

The government now says its environmental impact assessments made before the dam's approval indicated there would be some side effects to the $25 billion project.

Sun Zhiyu is a director of the development group in charge of the dam's construction. He says, "Personally, I think if comparing the benefits and the disadvantages of the Three Gorges Dam, then the benefits are huge."

The State Council recently took reporters on a tour of the dam. Information officer Yu Liwen said, "We want to tell the world and the media what the real situation of the Three Gorges Dam and the environment in China. "

International conservation groups, local residents, and even some local Chinese officials and scientists have criticized the dam for causing landslides, taking away people's livelihoods, and increasing water pollution levels.

The official trip took reporters to a landslide treatment center, a vocational training center and sewage treatment plants.