Natural flow of Yangtze blocked for dam


CHINA China finished blocking the Yangtze River at the Three Gorges Dam yesterday, paving the way for the world's biggest hydroelectricity and flood control project, due to come on stream next year.

This milestone for the controversial $25 billion (€25 billion) dam, which is forcing the relocation of 1.2 million peasants living along the river's banks before ancient villages and relics are submerged, came two days before a crucial Communist Party Congress opens in Beijing.

State television showed big dump trucks and bulldozers pouring boulders into the dam's final opening, a diversion canal built in 1997 for boats to navigate the river during construction.

Communist Party number two Mr Li Peng, the long-time power industry official expected to retire from his party post at the congress, watched through a pair of binoculars.

He called the dam one of the greatest engineering feats in history, the official Xinhua news agency said. "The administration of a country's national affairs becomes easier when its rivers are tamed," Mr Li said, citing an old saying.

The Yangtze waters now flow through 22 diversion holes in the lower part of the dam in the central province of Hubei. A reservoir will take shape after workers complete the final 665-metre section of the dam over the next eight months, the agency said.

The reservoir will begin to fill next year - with water scheduled to rise 75 metres in 15 days - when the first four turbines are expected to begin generating power, although the project is not due for completion until 2009. By then, it will have 26 generators providing around 10 per cent of China's power and have cost 204 billion yuan ($24.65 billion), according to state media. - (Reuters)