A senior Chinese official denounced the ecological damage done by the Three Gorges Dam project, the first such admission by a high-ranking official, the Financial Times reported. Landslides, silting, erosion and algal blooms in and along a 600km stretch of the Yangtze River have created an undeniable environmental hazard, said Wang Xiaofeng, director of the State Council Three Gorges Construction Committee. "We cannot exchange environmental destruction for short-term economic gain," he was quoted as saying. It is speculated that criticism of the project, which has highly symbolic value, could be politically motivated as part of internal power struggles ahead of the 17th Communist Party Congress in October, at which the top ranks of the party will be decided. The dam is now producing the equivalent in electricity of 50 million metric tons of thermal coal.