In early January SEPA ordered a halt to the construction of 30 large projects across the country, including the new underground power house affiliated to the Three Gorges project, which failed to pass their environmental impact assessment.

The new underground powerhouse will cost about US$720M and should be completed in 2009. By then, 90% of the water in the Three Gorges reservoir will be used for generating hydro power. Based on an original development plan, the Three Gorges project, with an estimated cost of US$21.7B, was to have 26 generators with a combined generating capacity of 18,200MW.

But a revised plan calls for inclusion of a new underground power plant with an additional six new 700MW generators. So far, 14 of the generators have already been installed on the northern bank of the Yangtze river. The remaining 18 generating units will all be erected on the river’s southern bank.