China to move another 300,000 for Three Gorges "eco belt"
China plans to move another 300,000 people to create an ecological protection belt around the Three Gorges Dam and reservoir, after relocating 1.3 million residents over the past 17 years, state media said Thursday, DPA reported.
At least 300,000 people would need to move from areas close to the reservoir, the China Daily newspaper quoted Hu Jiahai, an official responsible for relocations in Chongqing city's Wanzhou district which administers most of the Three Gorges area, as saying.
"An eco-screen, or buffer belt, is waiting for approval to be built alongside the reservoir to improve the water quality of the Yangtze River streams and reduce the contamination from residents living nearby," Hu said.
"Additionally, more people will have to move out of the area to avoid geographic hazards, like landslides, caused by the dam that tames water levels rising or falling between 145 metres to 175 metres every year to produce electricity," he was quoted as saying.
The final number to be relocated would depends on geological assessments of the area, Hu said.
Officials responsible for the relocations would also need to address "problems from the early migration period," including employment training and the creation of new jobs, he said.
The new relocations would be part of a 10-year plan expected to be approved by the State Council, or cabinet, this year, Hu said.
The newspaper said the additional relocations were likely to cause "even more overcrowding" in the recipient areas.
The population density around the Three Gorges reservoir had already reached 338 per square kilometre, more than double the national average, it quoted a local government report as saying.
The newspaper quoted Huang Qifan, acting mayor of Chongqing, as saying his city had allocated 54 billion yuan (7.9 billion dollars) to relocate 1.1 million people, with others resettled in the neighbouring province of Hubei.
A survey in 2007 found 9,324 sites were at risk of landslides and other geological hazards, forcing the relocation of an extra 53,000 people since 2001.
Work began on the Three Gorges Dam and hydroelectric power plant in 1993, with filling of the reservoir and electricity generation started in 2008.
Last year, the government said it had spent 180 billion yuan (26.5 billion dollars) on building the 185-metre dam and the reservoir, which stretches more than 600 kilometres, but critics claim the cost could be more than twice that amount.
The Three Gorges power plant will eventually have 26 generators with a combined generating capacity of 84.7 billion kilowatts of electricity annually.