The Chinese government has decided to curb environmental deterioration in the Three Gorges Dam region by 2020, according a government statement after a Cabinet meeting held Wednesday.
A statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao says the government will "properly handle the negative effects brought by the project to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and improve the long-term mechanisms for geological disaster prevention."
At the meeting, the government pledged to "stick to the principle of putting people first and promoting sustainable development in post-construction work."
According to the statement, efforts should be made to increase oversight and control of the water pollution to ensure the safety of the drinking water.
The government will also increase efforts to preserve the environment and promote biological diversity in the areas impacted by the world's largest hydro-power complex, according to the statement.
The main body of the Three Gorges Dam, which is located in the town of Sandouping in central China's Hubei Province, was completed in May 2006 after 17 years of construction.
The project has played a significant role in flood prevention, power generation, shipping and water resources use, the statement said.
While at the same time, efforts are needed to address some problems concerning the wellbeing of relocated residents, environmental protection, and geological disaster prevention, all of which should be solved urgently, it states.
For years the Chinese government dismissed warnings from scientists and environmentalists that the Three Gorges Dam could become one of China's biggest environmental problems.
Then in 2007 Chinese officials acknowledged for the first time that the dam, constructed in an area crossed by geologic fault lines, could be triggering landslides and altering entire ecosystems.
Landslides, silting, and erosion above the dam are creating environmental and safety hazards that cannot be ignored, Wang Xiaofeng, director of the State Council Three Gorges Construction Committee, was quoted as saying in October 2007. "We cannot exchange environmental destruction for short-term economic gain," he said.