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As Water Rises in Three Gorges Reservoir, So Does Garbage

The rising water in the Three Gorges reservoir will make it harder for workers to clean up floating garbage in the dam, said an official with the China Yangtze River Three Gorges Project Development Corporation on Thursday.

The severe drought in the past several months in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest, had reduced its capacity to clean itself and left a lot of garbage on the banks, Cao Guangjing, vice manager of the corporation, told Xinhua.

The garbage will end up floating in the huge reservoir with the water level rising to 156 meters to increase the hydro-electric potential of the dam, he said.

The water in the reservoir began to rise at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

The reservoir will see a sharp increase of floating garbage in a short time as the water in the reservoir is being raised 21 meters from 135 to 156 meters, Cao said.

"The increase is going to make clean up work much more difficult," Cao said.

Cao said the amount of floating garbage in the reservoir is expected to surpass 200,000 cubic meters.

The company has decided to use a specialized boat to clean up floating garbage, but the vessel is yet to put into operation due to a lack of spare parts, he said.

The capacity of the boat is 300 cubic meters, the world's largest of its kind, Cao added.

When the water level reaches 156 meters, the Three Gorges Project will increase power production by 7.85 billion kw/hours annually, while water storage will rise by 11 billion cubic meters, improving shipping conditions upstream. The reservoir currently holds 14 billion cubic meters of water.

The water level will rise from the current 135 meters to 148 meters by Oct. 1 and then to 156 meters by mid-October after a break of two days so engineers can monitor the effects on the dam, which was completed in May.

With the water-rising progress, local governments in the dam area began a clean-up campaign with a budget of 4.6 million yuan (US$575,000).

Six hundred workers, with 208 boats and 58 motor vehicles in Chongqing municipality, have been mobilized to clear the affected areas and the Yangtze's 20 dried-up lesser tributaries of tree branches, solid waste and farm debris, said Tang Jiali, deputy director of Chongqing Municipal Environmental Hygiene Bureau.

"If this rubbish is not cleared, it will be washed down into the reservoir, polluting the environment and endangering shipping," said Tang.

With a budget of 203.9 billion yuan (US$25.5 billion), the Three Gorges Project will have a reservoir with a capacity of 39.3 billion cubic meters and produce 84.7 billion kw/h of electricity annually, when it is completed in 2009.

By April, 126 billion yuan (US$15.75 billion) had been spent on construction of the Three Gorges project. A total of 130 billion kwh of electricity has been generated since July 2003, earning 25 billion yuan (US$3.125 billion) in revenue.

(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2006)

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