China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, has already come under fire from environmental and social activists for the massive ecological and demographic changes it will cause. Now there’s a new reason to be concerned: A government meteorologist predicted today that the reservoir created by the dam would raise local temperatures, thereby changing the face of agriculture in the Chongqing and Hubei regions of the Yangtze River Valley. Zhu Changhan, a researcher at the China Meteorological Administration, said the huge reservoir would change the terrain sufficiently to alter wind patterns, increase humidity, and reflect more sunlight, resulting in an average temperature increase of 0.3 degrees Celsius in areas as far as 62 miles from the reservoir. Although the predicted temperature change is small, it would be sufficient to force farmers to abandon some crops currently grown in the area. Critics of the dam, which is slated to be completed by 2009, also note that it will dislocate more than 1.1 million people and cause significant pollution and other ecological damage.

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