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Three Gorges tarnishes new hydropower?

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Three Gorges tarnishes new hydropower?
A heavy fog hangs over the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in Sichuan Province, September 2, 2010. China's hydropower installed capacity has exceeded 200 million kilowatts, making it the world's highest, according to government reports. The Chinese government aims to boost that amount to 300 million kilowatts by 2015, as part of its aim to cut carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

BEIJING, June 21 (UPI) -- The operator of China's massive Three Gorges Dam said it is building four hydroelectric power stations, which will be capable of producing twice as much power as Three Gorges.

Combined, the facilities -- Xiluodu, Xiangjiaba, Wudongde and Baihetan -- on the Jinsha River will generate about 190 billion kilowatts of electricity, said China Three Gorges Corp., state-run news agency Xinhua reports.

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Xiangjiaba is to be put into operation next year. Xiluodu, to be the second-largest hydropower station in China after Three Gorges, will have an installed capacity of 13.96 million kilowatts. Completion is scheduled for 2013.

Wudongde and Baihetan are still in the design stage. Approval to build the four plants was granted in 2002, the corporation said.

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China Three Gorges provided the update on the new facilities in its first "responsibility report" on Three Gorges Dam, in which the company defended the controversial dam.

The report comes a month after China's State Council outlined a number of "urgent problems" regarding environmental, geological and economic issues related to the Three Gorges Dam, citing a heightened risk of landslides, earthquakes and prolonged damage to the river's ecology.

During the engineered flooding required for the construction of Three Gorges, 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages were submerged and 1.8 million people displaced.

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Critics of Three Gorges have questioned its role in China's severe drought that dragged on for more than five months and the ensuing floods now battering the country.

"The dam operators lack experience in managing the water flow," said Yang Fuqiang, a senior adviser on climate and energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, The New York Times reports.

"They waited for too long until the drought impact reached extremes. And when they finally released water, the natural connection between the river and surrounding lakes was already broken, making it difficult to refill the lakes."

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But China Three Gorges Corp. maintains that aside from producing electricity, its role is to help with drought relief and flood control.

To raise water levels and ease drought, the company's report said, the dam this year had released more than 20 billion cubic meters of water.

"The Three Gorges Dam didn't cause the drought, which lingered in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River for months but instead supplied those stricken areas with large quantities of water and relieved the drought greatly," Zhu Guangming, spokesman for the corporation, told China Daily.

"Flood control is the most important task of our project now," said Chen Fei, general manager of the company.

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