Dams and Landslides

News briefs

October 8, 1999

(i) Landslides threaten Three Gorges dam project

Landslides destroyed hundreds of homes in the Three Gorges dam area, according to a September 3, 1999, report inHua Xia Wen Zha (HXWZ), a Chinese-language Internet magazine based in the United States.

Wushan County, which boasts the scenic Three Gorges, suffered a series of devastating landslides along the banks of the Yangtze river. Over 1,200 people lost their homes in a 18,000-square-metre area. Wushan, where landslides frequently occur, is one of the areas in the planned Three Gorges dam reservoir. Specialists warn that the landslides could pose a serious threat to the mega-dam now under construction.

Geologists believe that the recent landslide disasters were caused by this summer’s floods and a failure to make timely repairs to the landslide-damaged riverbank.

The village of Tong Xin in Wangxia Township also suffered according to Sanxia City Journal, a local newspaper. About 450 people were evacuated after a one-kilometre-long crack appeared in the mountain on which the village rests. In some places, the crack was as wide as two metres, causing the whole mountain to slide 30 centimetres toward the Yangtze river. Geologists were afraid that over 4 million cubic metres of rock might collapse into the river.

(ii) Government plans to divert Yangtze water north

The project to ease the water shortage in north China by channelling Yangtze river water to the Yellow river is at the final stage of feasibility studies, the September 3 issue of HXWZ reports.

The project, known as the “South Water to the North Project,” will build a super canal linking the two famous waterways. Officials have waged a heated debate over the three possible plans – the “West Line Plan,” the “Middle Line Plan,” and the “East Line Plan” – which have taken six years to complete.

The West Line Plan would build a canal at the upper reaches of Yangtze, and the East Line Plan at the lower Yangtze, while the Middle Line Plan focuses on the river’s middle reach. At present, a consensus seems to have been reached on the Middle Line Plan, which calls for a 1,246-kilometre closed canal from Hubei to Beijing. It would transport about 14.5 billion cubic metres of water – 1.5 percent of the Yangtze river’s total annual flow – to north China. The feasibility study is expected to be presented to the central government at the end of this year.

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Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. However, it is not a forum for political debate. Rather, Three Gorges Probe is dedicated to covering the scientific, technical, economic, social, and environmental ramifications of completing the Three Gorges Project, as well as the alternatives to the dam.

Publisher: Patricia Adams Executive Editor: Mu Lan ISSN 1481-0913

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