Construction has begun on a major dam in southwestern China that will form part of a power generation base that will match the massive Three Gorges Dam in electrical generating capacity, reports said yesterday.
Estimates of the number of people that will be displaced by the Xiangjiaba dam project, being built on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, vary from about 88,000 to about 150,000.
The 6 gigawatt project, to be combined with the nearby 12.6 gigawatt Xiluodu dam, is expected to match or exceed the capacity of the Three Gorges dam further downstream on the Yangtze, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported.
Construction of the 28.9 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion) project formally began on Sunday, reports said. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015.
Apart from Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu, China plans to build 12 hydropower stations along the upper reaches of the Yangtze, known as the Jinsha river, part of a frenzy of dam building aimed at meeting soaring demand for power to fuel China's booming industries.
Hydroelectric power is viewed as a relatively clean alternative to the heavily polluting coal-fired plants that are the country's mainstay source of energy.
Nevertheless, some critics have questioned the potential environmental and social impact of so many huge projects.
"The project will have to face manifold challenges, including environmental protection and resettlement of residents," the China Daily cited an official of the China Three Gorges Project Corp, which is also building Xiangjiaba and Xiluodu, as saying.
About 1.3 million people were moved to make way for the US$22 billion Three Gorges project after construction went ahead despite complaints over its high cost and worries that the dam will trap and concentrate pollution.
Planning for Xiangjiabe began in the late 1950s, the corporation said.