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3,800 Tons of Rubbish Retrieved

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Environmental sanitation workers have collected 3,800 tons of floating garbage from the Three Gorges Dam in Central China's Hubei Province, ensuring the efficient operation of the dam's generators and navigation system after engineers recently raised its water level.

Wang Yafei, an official of Zigui bureau of environmental protection and director of the cleanup operation, told China Daily on Wednesday that the cleanup operation began on Oct 26, when the dam's water level hit its designed maximum capacity of 175 meters.

The water level of the dam was raised so that it was capable of fulfilling its combined functions of flood control, power generation, navigation and water supply.

As the water level rose, large amounts of garbage - primarily tree trunks, branches and straw - appeared at the front of the dam, threatening the operation of its 26 generators.

The local government mobilized teams to remove the floating garbage, which also posed a threat to the reservoir's navigation system, said Wang.

"We have been sending 100 people in 15 boats every day to do the cleanup," he said.

Over six days, the workers salvaged more than 3,800 tons of garbage, more than 600 tons per day.

"All of the salvaged garbage will be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There will be no disposal in rivers and nearby places," Wang said.

Ten percent of the garbage will be used as landfill. The rest of it will be treated by the Zigui branch of the Huaxin Cement Co Ltd, he said.

"We invested more than 58 million yuan (US$8.5 million) on installing waste disposal equipment, primarily for floating garbage," Huaxin manager Zhou Zhiyuan told China Daily.

According to Zhou, more than 70,000 cubic meters of floating garbage was collected from the dam from July to October.

Huaxin incinerates the garbage to generate power, which is used to produce cement.

"It is a way to develop the recycling business in the dam area," Zhou said.

The local environmental protection department said it plans to spend six months a year cleaning up the dam, from May to November.

Chen Lei, director of the key water project department under the China Three Gorges Corporation, told China Daily in August that 150,000 to 200,000 cubic meters of floating garbage is collected from the dam each year.

The China Three Gorges Corporation annually spends about 10 million yuan on clearing floating garbage. The cost of disposing of the waste is expected to hit 3 million yuan this year, he added.

China launched the Three Gorges project in 1993 with a budget equivalent to US$22.5 billion.

(China Daily November 4, 2010)

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