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Confronting pollution on the Yangtze river

A pressure group known as the Three Gorges Probe claims that the Three Gorges dam in China will slow the Yangtze river’s flow, backing up water and concentrating sewage and other pollutants in its 600km reservoir. Chinese scientist, Chen Guopjie, says that the reservoir created by the dam will be a ‘huge, stagnant, stinking pond’.

Chonquing, which is a highly industrialised Yangtze city of 30M people, produces 1.2B tonnes of industrial waste water and 300M tonnes of sewage each year. The city, which will be located at the reservoir’s upstream end, treats about one-third of its industrial waste water and almost none of its sewage before discharging it into the river.

The pollution problem was allegedly overlooked in the official feasibility studies for the Three Gorges dam. A study conducted by the Canadian International Development Agency acknowledged the problem but apparently failed to include waste water treatment in its estimate of project costs.

Meanwhile, Chonquing is reportedly hurrying plans to build 23 sewage treatment plants with US$100M from the World Bank to address the problem. The World Bank is also considering a US$250M loan for the treatment of waste water and solid waste.

The Three Gorges Probe claims that the pollution problem along the Yangtze river is not new. After the construction of the Gezhouba dam on the Yangtze in 1989, 40km downstream of Three Gorges, visitors are said to have described a river full of sewage with rubbish strewn everywhere and waste oil from ships and factories covering the surface of the river.