Chinese Government Urges Dam Operators at Maximum Capacity to Hold Back the Flood

Three Gorges Dam. China News Service / CC BY

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Authorities have ordered dam operators to try to hold back incoming flood water, as Chinese manufacturing and farming heartland cities in the Yangtze Delta are bracing for yet more severe flooding. The same order given by Chinese authorities in similar circumstances in 1975 led to the deaths of up to a quarter of a million people.

China on alert for Yangtze River flooding as storms close in

Water resources minister urges dams in upper reaches to ease as much pressure as possible on downstream areas still recovering from last month’s inundation

Residents in Shaanxi province told to move to higher ground amid threat of flash floods

Alice Yan in Shanghai
Published: 7:01pm, 17 Aug, 2020

Heavy rain is expected across China’s southwest, northwest and northeast in the next three days, raising flood risks and pressure on dams, weather forecasters have warned.

The Ministry of Water Resources urged local authorities to be on alert, particularly along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the middle reaches of the Yellow, Hai, Songhua and Liao rivers.

The National Meteorological Centre said Sichuan province in the country’s southwest would be particularly hard hit, with up to 300mm (11.8 inches) of rain forecast for Monday.

Between 30-50mm of rain is expected to fall per hour in the provinces of Yunnan, Gansu, Shaanxi, Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, rising to over 70mm an hour in some scattered areas.

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3097699/china-alert-yangtze-river-flooding-storms-close

Pressuring operators of dams which are already at or near maximum capacity to try to hold back anticipated severe flooding in my opinion puts the structural integrity of the entire river system at risk.

One of the worst dam failures in history occurred in 1975, after Typhoon Nina dumped water upstream of the Banqiao Dam. Whistle blower Chen Xing had warned Banqiao Dam was defective but his warnings were ignored. Authorities rejected a plea from dam operators on August 6th to open the floodgates. This order to keep the flood gates closed was rescinded on August 7th, too late to save the dam.

Up to a quarter of a million people are estimated to have died because of the Banqiao Dam failure.

This year Typhoon Hagupit struck the Yangtze River headwaters. Continuing severe rainfall is striking already waterlogged ground. Whistle blower and renowned geologist Fan Xiao’s warnings about the structural integrity of Three Gorges have been dismissed by authorities. And now once again Chinese authorities are putting pressure on operators of dams which are already sitting at or near maximum capacity to do their best to hold back the flood.

Let us hope that history does not repeat itself. 400 million people live in the Yangtze River Delta, downstream of the Three Gorges Dam.

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August 23, 2020 at 08:26AM

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