China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Yellow River dams verge on collapse

By Tan Yingzi (China Daily) Updated: 2009-06-19 10:34 Several dams on branches of the Yellow River in Gansu province are near collapse only one or two years after their construction. Improper construction procedures, disqualified workers, embezzlement of construction funds and mismanagement of local water resource departments are threatening the safety of the dams, according to China Youth Daily. One dike more than 80-m long and 20-m high, built in 2006 in Yuanxian county on the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River, has developed a breach about 10 meters wide in the middle.

According to nearby villagers, at least five newly-built dams are in very fragile condition, the newspaper said.

All those dikes are part of the soil and water conservation project of the Yellow River under the management of the Ministry of Water Resources. Most of the money for construction comes from the central government.

With a length of 5,464 km, the Yellow River, dubbed the "mother river" of China, suffers the most serious soil erosion in the world, especially along its middle and upper reaches. The average amount of mud and sand washed into the river every year reaches 1.6 billion tons.

Since 2003, China has poured a total of 83 billion yuan ($12 billion) into tackling soil erosion along the river and constructed more than 160,000 dams, according to Xinhua News Agency.

As flood season approaches in July, August and September, China's dam safety is coming under heavy pressure and inspections show many of them are not in good condition, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said last month.

China has the world's largest number of reservoirs, and 37,000 of them, or more than 40 percent of the country's total, are in potential danger. Of those, 3,642 dams are being reinforced and another 7,611 need immediate reinforcement.

From 1999 to 2008, a total of 59 dams were breached nationwide, 30 caused by torrential rain and another 20 from quality defects, he said.

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