Three Gorges Probe

Dredgers dig shipping lanes in drying Yangtze

May 30, 2007

Shipping channels in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River are to be dredged as the water falls to its lowest level in 20 years.

Authorities have withdrawn a large silt dredger from a north China offshore construction site to dredge channels at Heishazhou (Blacksand Shoal), 40 kilometers upstream from Wuhu Bridge on the lower reaches, said Wan Dabin, a senior official with the Yangtze River Waterway Bureau.

The country’s longest river usually reaches its summer flood season in middle or late May, but this year the levels are abnormally low.

"Though it’s already the flood season, the water level in the river has kept dropping, which has hindered navigation," said Wan.

By Monday, the water level monitored near Hankou on the middle reaches was 4.53 meters, two meters lower than the same period a year ago, while the water level stood at 1.97 meters near Wuhu on the lower reaches, more than four meters lower than the record attained a year ago. Less rain in the entire Yangtze River drainage area has been blamed for falling water levels.

On May 1, the Ministry of Communications raised the safe navigation depth in the 1,891-km section between Chongqing on the upper reaches of the Yangtze and Wuhu on the lower reaches to 7.5 meters this summer, compared with five meters in previous years.

Monitoring of the navigable course near Wuhu, in Anhui Province, shows that within 1,200 meters around Heisha, the depth is just 7.05 meters, 45 centimeters below the safe level for this summer.

Dredging near Heisha is deemed necessary to ensure safe navigation because it is unlikely to rain soon.

"Eight more dredgers are standing by to help dredge the river wherever necessary," said the waterway bureau’s Wan.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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