Around 250 B.C., a Chinese official here designed an ingenious system of earthworks that tamed the flood-prone Min River and distributed its water to farmlands. Legend has it that he needed the assistance of a god to complete the task.
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The waterworks still stand today, guiding the river at the point where it pours down off the Tibetan plateau and into the fertile plains of Sichuan province.
Now, they have become one of the key battlegrounds in China's rethinking of the costs and benefits of its massive dam network. Seeking to control floods and produce clean energy, China's central planners have presided over a relentless dam-building drive: The country's 22,000 large dams represent nearly half the world's total. But growing numbers of Chinese citizens are criticizing the environmental and social upheaval caused by the structures, and many point to the ancient Dujiangyan waterworks as a less-intrusive way to control rivers.
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