Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Project threatens world's earliest irrigation system

AFP , BEIJING

The world's earliest irrigation system is being threatened by a hydroelectric project to be built in southwest China, state press said yesterday, citing critics of the project.

A series of 10 small hydro plants to be built on the Botiao river in Sichuan Province will destroy the natural ecology of the Dujiangyan irrigation system, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, the China Daily reported.

"It is irrational to build such stations as they will destroy the natural ecology along the river," Chen Qingheng, a expert at the China Academy of Sciences, was quoted by the paper as saying. "Moreover, [the dams] will affect the local drinking water."

The system was built around 250BC and continues to work "perfectly" today in controlling and distributing water throughout the Chengdu plains, according to the UNESCO Web site that explains why Dujiangyan has World Heritage listing.

The Dujiangyan administration bureau is a backer of the 1 billion yuan (US$135 million) dam project.

The dam project is currently undergoing an environmental impact assessment, the China Daily said.

Besides threatening the local fresh water supplies, the 10 dams could also become a flood hazard to farms in the region, other opponents said.

"If the dams are breached, every farm and village in the area will be at risk," said Zhao Wenqian, deputy head of the Sichuan provincial academy of water resources.

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