Workers have now poured 3.34M m3 of concrete at the Three Gorges dam and 18,200MW hydro project, which is under construction on the middle reaches of the Yangtze river in China’s Hubei Province. The concrete, which has been poured during a period of ten months, is being hailed as a new world record. The project entered a three-year period of intense concrete pouring in 1999 and about 4M m3 of concrete will be poured annually.

At present, the overall dam section has been built to a height of 85.9m and the power generating dam section has reached a height of 129.5m. Concrete is needed for the permanent ship lock, the riverbed gravity dam, and the hydro power plants on the left bank of the Yangtze. The total volume of concrete required for the completion of the main works of the project is estimated to be well over 27M m3.

Resettlement at the Three Gorges site has also been under scrutiny. China’s People’s Daily reports that the Government has decided to resettle 125,000 people displaced by the dam in other provinces instead of near their soon to be inundated homesteads in Hubei. The decision by the cabinet, announced in a brief article inside the ruling Communist Party’s newspaper, confirmed reports by dam critics that resettlement had stalled in the Three Gorges area over the past six months.

Under the new State Council plan, the refu- gees will be relocated to the suburbs of Shanghai city and in ten provinces mainly in the lower reaches of the Yangtze river and in the southeastern coast. Project designers had initially planned to resettle most of the displaced in newly built towns as close as possible to their homes. But the scarcity of land and the large number of displaced people brought about the change of policy, People’s Daily said. Premier Zhu Rongji called for a review of the policy while touring the project area in May 1999.

Resettlement will begin in pilot sites in 2000, with all 125,000 people to be moved by 2003 when impounding is scheduled to begin. As many as 1.2M people are expected to be affected by 2009 to make way for the reservoir.

The Chinese project has drawn widespread criticism for its resettlement plans, its cost and impact on the Yangtze’s environment, as well as the submergence of cultural relics. But China says the project will end perennial flooding along the Yangtze’s middle and lower reaches and provide energy for the country’s industrialisation. Devastating floods along the Yangtze in the summer of 1998 caused US$24.16B of damage, killed 1384 people and left 21M people homeless.