Water quality in Three Gorges reservoir has not improved despite clean-up project
U.S. Water News Online
BEIJING — The quality of water behind the Three Gorges dam has not substantially improved despite an ambitious plan to reduce pollution, China's environmental protection body said.
The lack of improvement comes despite 18.2 billion yuan (US$2.55 billion; euro1.73 billion) being spent in a cleanup project launched in 2001, the State Environmental Protection Administration said in a report.
The quality has even deteriorated in several branches of the Yangtze River that feed the reservoir, as two-thirds of environmental projects have not been implemented.
A measure of water quality, chemical oxygen demand, stayed the same from 2000 to 2005 in the 20 counties around the main reservoir and upstream areas, despite hopes to reduce it, the report said.
"With the fast development of the economy and society in the reservoir area and the rising levels of the reservoir, pollution control work in the Three Gorges area and the upstream water faces new challenges," the report said.
Since the water has been allowed to rise behind the dam five years ago, the once fast-running Yangtze River has slowed, it said, causing more pollution in the dam because there is less turnover of water.
The quality of water in the main reservoir and in the upper reaches of the Yangtze has stayed at category III, meaning it is second-class quality surface water, OK for drinking, feeding fish and swimming.
But several tributaries of the Yangtze and surrounding areas, including 42 counties, have seen their water quality deteriorate, the report said.
Pollutants causing eutrophication — causing the growth of algae, which saps water of oxygen — have made water in those areas dangerous to drink, the report said.
It said the government did not have the resources to deal with the huge challenge of cleaning up the dam because local environmental protection bureaus were weak.
The $22 billion dam, the world's biggest hydroelectric project, was supposed to end flooding along the Yangtze and provide a clean energy alternative to coal.
Approved in 1992 and due to be completed in 2009, it will generate 84.7 billion kilowatts of electricity each year — the equivalent of what it takes to light Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, according to figures from 2005.
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