WORKERS HAVE STARTED the removal of the coffer dam, at China’s Three Gorges dam project.

The 81m high earthen embankment dam had kept the construction site dry, and is expected to take approximately five months to be removed completely.

Reports say that dam construction has reached safe levels and it can begin holding back waters of the Yangtze, China’s largest river, without the coffer dam. When completed in June 2003, the US$24B concrete dam will be 190m high and more than 2km long. Its reservoir will be filled by stages until it reaches 660km in length in 2009.

The project, the largest in the world, has been criticised by environmentalists and human rights activists as it is expected to displace more than one million residents.