China enlists West to fight dam corruption

CHINA HAS acted on fears that corruption could scupper its ambitious Three Gorges dam project and installed American and French engineers to supervise the construction.

Five inspectors from a US-based company have been on the site in central China's Hubei province since May, enforcing quality controls on concrete pouring for the 203bn yuan (pounds 15.4bn) scheme. A dozen French power experts have also been hired to ensure that the first 14 turbines are manufactured to requirements.

"There are clear advantages to hiring foreign supervisors to stem corruption in construction activities," the project's deputy manager, He Gong, told the official Xinhua news agency.

"Foreign supervisors can set forth more objective suggestions, as they are not easily affected by external factors," he said.

The 17-year project, which will dwarf Egypt's Aswan dam and create the world's biggest hydro-electric power station, is China's largest construction scheme. Opponents claim it is dangerous and an inefficient use of resources. They warn that the relocation of an estimated 1.2 million farmers from areas to be flooded has already foundered amid heavy corruption and underfunding.

In contrast, China's leaders see the project as the crowning glory of the modernising nation. They say it will provide essential power resources and help to control flooding along the mighty Yangtze river. As recently as 1997 the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, hailed the dam, which will have an electricity generation capacity of 18,200 mega-watts when it is ready in 2009, as proof of the superiority of the socialist system.

But a series of corruption-related bridge, dyke and building collapses in China last year alerted the leaders in Peking to the realities of shoddy construction. The politburo reacted by ordering an emergency inspection of the Three Gorges project, which led to the arrest of 105 people on charges of corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. In December plans were announced to hire foreign supervisors to ensure the project's safety. Even though the cost of employing the foreigners is 100 times that of a local supervisor and the scheme is already underfunded, the move has been welcomed by supporters and opponents alike.

According to Xinhua, the leading US supervisor, Mick McKinnon, has found no major problems so far with concrete pouring, but has criticised poor night lighting at the site and the way construction materials are stored.

The idea for the dam was mooted in the 1930s, and took shape under the late Mao Tse-tung, the Communist leader, although China at first did not feel it had the expertise or funding to start construction until 2003.

It is the pet project of former Premier Li Peng, and was long considered untouchable because of his patronage.

Some of China's most densely populated farmland and most important cities, such as industrial Wuhan and the economic powerhouse of Shanghai, lie downstream of the dam. Shoddy construction could endanger tens of millions of lives and prove a disaster and embarrassment to Peking.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...