Three Gorges Probe
October 26, 1998
(i) Half a Million to be Moved After Disastrous Floods
[TGP, 10/98] About 468,000 people living in reclaimed land around the Poyang lake in Jiangxi province will be relocated, a newest move by China to prevent a repeat of this year’s flood disaster, according to a Xinhua story.
The relocation is designed to increase the flood overflow capacity of the Poyang lake, a major diversion area for Yangtze floodwaters, and to reduce the pressure on the Jiujiang Dyke, which tragically breached this summer, claiming thousands of people.
Local authorities hope that the relocation will restore the flood storage area of the lake to the same size it used to be four decades ago.
No details are given on where the half a million people will be resettled.
(ii) Senior Dam Opponent Speaks Out Again
[TGP, 10/98] A senior dam opponent in China speaks out again, dismissing flood-control benefits of the Three Gorges Project. Lu Qinkan, former Deputy Chief Engineer for planning at the Ministry of Water Resources and a long-time opponent of the mega-dam, argues in a couple of interviews published both inside and outside of China that this year’s flood damages would have been greatly reduced if the government had invested in improving dykes and embankments along the Yangtze River, rather than in building the super dam.
Quoted in an article to appear in a UNESCO publication, Lu says that volumetric amounts of water in this year’s Yangtze flood was not as disastrous as that of 1954. According to the data at Yichang hydrometric station, this year’s maximum discharge is 63,600 cubic metres per second compared to 66,800 cubic metre/sec. It also registers 54.50 metres as the highest water level this year, compared to 55.73 metres in 1954. At Hankou, this year’s maximum discharge is 71,200 cubic metres/sec, whereas it was 76,100 in 1954. The highest water level is 29.43 to that of 29.73 four decades ago.
This year’s flooding, according to Lu, illustrates the catastrophic consequences of the government policy which has favoured building hydro dams and neglected repairs and maintenance of dykes and embankments.
In 1980, the central government put forward a 10-year plan of 4.8 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion at then rate) to heighten and reinforce the Yangtze’s dikes. But the plan was never carried out due to a lack of government investment. By 1987, only 399 million yuan has been delivered. "Had it been realized, an extra 50 billion cubic metres of floodwater could have been discharged while another 50 billion cubic metres could have been diverted to retention basins," Lu says. "The flood control burden as well as this year’s disaster would have been much alleviated."
According to Lu’s calculation, the floods that hit the Yangtze in 1995, 1996 and this year have caused damages worth at least 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion), nearly 40 times the budget for the 1980 plan. It amounts to two thirds of the total investment in the controversial Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze.
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