Flooding below China's Three Gorges raises questions about dam

Continued flooding below Three Gorges Dam puts integrity, purpose in question

(Weibo photo)

(Weibo photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Massive flooding seen above and below the Three Gorges Dam is putting its purpose and stability into question.

In addition to generating electricity, one of the major stated purposes of the Three Gorges Dam was to help put a stop to the endless cycle of flooding seen along the Yangtze River for centuries. However, out of fears that this summer's floods upstream would overwhelm the mammoth showpiece project, its reservoir has been kept low by allegedly unleashing the sluicegates on lower reaches of the river, resulting in tremendous flooding below.

Torrential rainfall over the past several days has brought disastrous flooding to 26 provinces in China, endangering more than 10 million people. Thus far, 13 rivers in Sichuan, Chongqing, Guangxi, and other areas have seen extensive flooding, and with more rain predicted, severe flood warnings have been issued for these rivers, including the Yangtze well into Monday (June 29).

(Weibo photo)

According to the Hong Kong Economic Times, China's Ministry of Emergency Management said that this year's floods have affected 26 provinces and 11.22 million people. At present, the Yangtze River Basin has entered the main flood season, which is a "critical stage" for flood control.

Since June 20, torrential rain has fallen in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, leading to floodwaters that have exceeded the warning line on 58 rivers in 12 cities and provinces, including Chongqing, Sichuan, and Guizhou.

The Ministry of Water Resources predicted that from Sunday through Monday (June 28 to 29), the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, Qu River, Three Gorges Reservoir Region, middle reaches of Qing River, Han River, Tangbai River, lower reaches of the Chaohu Lake Basin, Chuhe River, Qingyi River, Yangjiang River, upper reaches of Huaihe River, Taihu Lake, and the surrounding river network areas will all see significant rises in the water level.

(Weibo photo)

On Saturday and Sunday (June 27 and 28), multiple videos posted on social media showed the city of Yichang, which sits just below the Three Gorges Dam, experiencing extensive flooding. Residents were cited on social media as suspecting that the flooding was a result of the massive dam opening its sluice gates to relieve stress on its structure, while ordinary citizens below pay the price.

China's state-run media-mouthpiece China.org reports that the floods have affected 12 million people with 78 people reported dead or missing. An estimated 8,000 homes have been destroyed with 97,000 suffering damage in 13 provinces.

Damages have reached 25.7 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion) according to China's Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM). This bout of flooding is the worst China has seen since the Three Gorges Dam was completed in 2003; the last time China saw such large-scale flooding was in 1998, when over 2,000 perished and 3 million homes were destroyed.

(Weibo photo)