Controversial hydro-electric project is eroding the Yangtze river banks

China’s Three Gorges Dam could cause environmental disaster unless preventative action is taken, the country’s state-owned media has warned.

Xinhua news quoted officials as saying landslides and pollution were among the “hidden ecological and environmental dangers concerning the Three Gorges Dam.”

Yangtze river

The controversial dam in central Hubei province is the world's largest hydro-electric project.

The damn, which will be fully operational in 2009, promises to provide electricity for China’s booming economy and help control flooding on the Yangtze river.

However, according to the report, rising waters in the reservoir behind the dam are eroding the Yangtze’s banks, causing landslides which create waves of up to 50m high.

Pollution has also worsened because the river is flowing too slowly to get rid of toxins.

Li Chunming, vice governor of Hubei province, was quoted as saying that more frequent outbreaks of algae were affecting tributaries of the Yangtze.

The most recent coverage in the state-owned press is in stark contrast to earlier reports which upheld the hydro-engineering project as a national triumph and sign of China’s progress.

Wang Xiaofeng, the director in charge of building the dam, reportedly said: “We cannot win by achieving economic prosperity at the cost of the environment.”