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Many Cracks Appear In
China's Massive
Three Gorges Dam
By John Gittings
The Guardian - UK
6-13-3


China says that 80 cracks have appeared in the Three Gorges dam, only days after the huge reservoir behind it was filled for the first time.
 
"If water enters these cracks, there could be negative effects, so we are fixing them very carefully," Pan Jiazhong, head of the dam's inspection group, said yesterday.
 
He denied that the cracks threatened the dam's safety, but said they could expand and cause leaking unless repaired.
 
The reservoir now extends upstream for 219km (350 miles), with a maximum water depth of 135 metres (440ft).
 
A failure of the dam could have catastrophic consequences downstream in the fertile and densely populated middle Yangtze valley.
 
Another official said the project had already displaced more than 700,000 people: a higher figure than previous estimates.
 
Guo Shuyan, director of the construction committee, said that dozens of towns had been evacuated and 13 larger urban communities rebuilt on higher land.
 
He admitted that there was insufficient land for the farmers who have been moved.
 
"We're now studying how to make improvements in their living standards," he said.
 
Measures were being considered to protect the dam against an attack by terrorists, he added.
 
Cracks in the upstream face of the dam were first revealed in March last year by Chinese journalists.
 
Dam engineers at the Three Gorges project development corporation said this was a "normal phenomenon" but added that the faults would be remedied.
 
Last month Mr Pan made a more detailed statement about the cracks, saying that experts were "particularly concerned".
 
It was reported only on the Yangtze river commission website, while national publicity focused on the "successful" filling of the reservoir.
 
Mr Pan said then that it was "too early to be proud" of the dam. "We have a long way to go ... I hope we will do our best to build a first-class project rather than a dam with 10-metre long cracks!"
 
The final inspection showed that some of the vertical cracks on the dam that had been repaired had reopened, "even though we put a great deal of money and effort into the repair work".
 
He said the dam would face its first real test in the severe floods expected this summer.
 
"Of course we ought to be well prepared for powerful, disastrous floods," he said.
 
"Please, let us never lower our guard in this respect."
 
Earlier he told the Three Gorges project inspectors that the 39bn cubic metres of water stored in the reservoir would be the"real examiners" of its success.
 
Floods, earthquakes and landslides would "show no mercy" if mistakes were made.
 
The project, the biggest of its kind in the world, is designed to provide electricity to central China and to diminish the risk of floods.
 
The second stage of filling the reservoir, due to be completed in 2009, will take the depth to 175 metres and extend the lake to the city of Chongqing.
 
At least 600,000 more people will have to be moved from settlements along the river banks .
 
Critics acknowledge that cracks are not unknown in newly built big dams, but they fear that corners may have been cut in order to achieve the arbitrary deadlines laid down by Beijing for political reasons.
 
A huge operation to remove such sources of pollution as industrial waste water, toxic wastes and disused public toilets from the reservoir bed before it was filled has fallen behind schedule.
 
Last month the state environmental protection administration issued a directive calling on officials to redouble their efforts to remove all possible sources of infectious disease.
 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,976263,00.html


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