Yangtze drought blamed on Three Gorges Dam

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 27 May 2011

A 200-day drought in central China has provoked a fierce debate among scientists and government researchers about the impact of big dams like the Three Gorges on local weather systems.

Climate specialists say that the reservoir acts as a giant heat reflector that affects the microclimate of the region

Government officials and experts have been forced to respond to a flurry of accusations by netizens and environmental activists that the world’s biggest hydropower plant has disrupted downstream water flows and could have a long-term impact on local weather patterns.

WHY IS THE THREE GORGES BEING BLAMED?

Experts say that the 600-km (350-mile) long reservoir required to serve the 26 700-megawatt turbines at the Three Gorges hydropower plant prevents considerable volumes of water from flowing downstream.

But some environmentalists and climate specialists have also said that the reservoir acts as a giant heat reflector that affects the microclimate of the region, raising temperatures and reducing rainfall.

They also point to longer-term impact, saying that large reservoirs like the Three Gorges are net greenhouse gas producers because they submerged vast tracts of forest and farmland that would otherwise have absorbed climate-altering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Continue reading

Shipping halted as Yangtze dries up

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 12 May 2011

Drought on China’s Yangtze River has led to historically low water levels that have forced authorities to halt shipping on the nation’s longest waterway, the government and media said Thursday.

The Yangtze is China's longest waterway and is indispensable to the economies of many cities

The water level along the lower reaches of the river near the city of Wuhan was just above three metres (10 feet) on Thursday, the Chang Jiang Waterway Bureau said on its website.

A day earlier, the bureau closed a 228-kilometre (140-mile) stretch above Wuhan to ocean-going vessels due to shallow water in an effort to prevent the ships from bottoming out.

Further up the river, the massive Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest hydroelectric project, has discharged more water to alleviate the drought conditions down river, state press reported.

It was not immediately clear if the measures would be effective, as the drought along the middle reaches has sent water levels to their lowest point in five decades, the China Daily said.

At least two ships have been stranded in recent days as dozens of emergency teams have been dispatched to prevent accidents along the middle reaches, where the river has shrunk to an average width of about 150 metres, it said. Continue reading

Little progress to limit Three Gorges dam pollution

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 02 July 2010

China has made scant progress on environment schemes drawn up nearly a decade ago to limit pollution in and around the vast Three Gorges dam reservoir, with officials hobbled by lack of funding, state media said on Friday.

Three Gorges Dam

Less than one-fifth of the projects laid out in 2001’s 10-year plan to protect the “water environment” have been completed, the official English language China Daily reported.

None of the nine schemes to limit water pollution caused by ships travelling on the reservoir have even got off the drawing board, the paper quoted Vice-Minister of Environmental Protection Zhang Lijun saying at a meeting in the city of Chongqing, which is at the top of the reservoir.

The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest, aims to tame the mighty River Yangtse and provide cheap, clean energy. The dam, which cost 254.2 billion yuan ($37.24 billion) and displaced 1.3 million people, was controversial long before construction began in 1994.

The long-term plan aimed to lay to rest concerns that the dam would be devastating for the environment.

Environmentalists have warned for years that the reservoir could turn into a cesspool of raw sewage and industrial chemicals backing onto Chongqing, and feared that silt trapped behind the dam could cause erosion.

But officials from affected areas say they never got enough cash to push through the projects, and were hindered by a range of other obstacles, the China Daily said.

Vice-Minister Zhang Lijun said funding was not a problem, and that any area that had not completed at least 60 percent of its projects by the end of this year would face punishment.

A magazine report warned last year that the reservoir will also see an increasing number of landslides and other geological hazards, as the water reaches its maximum level, citing research by a local political advisory body.

– Reuters