Three Gorges Probe

Three Gorges Probe

(April 10, 2001)

(1) U.S. scientists predict Three Gorges dam could alter climate
(2) Severe drought threatens power production at China’s Ertan dam
(3) 75,000 people to be relocated as part of Longtan Power Station project

(1) U.S. scientists predict Three Gorges dam could alter climate
Apr. 3, 2001 – The American Meteorological Society (AMS) recently released a paper stating that major development and construction planned for China’s Yangtze and Yellow rivers, particularly the Three Gorges dam project, could significantly alter the salt content of the Sea of Japan, possibly changing the climate in regions near these ocean waters.

AMS said that rain and fresh water, carried into the oceans by rivers, float on top of salty oceanic water, providing a shield which effectively insulates the ocean from the atmosphere above. When the shield is broken, the lack of an insulating layer allows heat from the surface of the ocean to move into the atmosphere above. Without the protective shield, the water cooled by the atmosphere sinks all the way to the bottom of the ocean, cooling the deep ocean.

The report said that the construction of the Three Gorges dam threatens to break the fresh-water shield by obstructing the flow of river water into the ocean, thereby altering the salt distribution in the Sea of Japan or Japan/East Sea.

“The construction of the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River — the largest dam to be constructed on Earth — will divert some of the fresh Yangtze River water, which normally finds its way to the Japan/East Sea, for agricultural use,” said Florida State University (FSU) researcher Doron Nof. “The lack of fresh and rain water in the Sea of Japan could break the protective barrier these waters normally provide.”

Presently, the shield in the semi-enclosed Japan/East Sea is not broken, said Nof. However, the construction of the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River threatens to break it within a few years after construction is completed in 2010.

(2) Severe drought threatens power production at China’s Ertan dam
Apr. 9, 2001 – China Online reports that a drought that began in Sichuan province last October has persisted through the autumn, winter and now spring. This is reported to be the most severe drought seen in Sichuan province in the past 30 years.

The extreme lack of water has seriously affected the ability to generate power. The province has prepared its last remaining backup coal-fueled generator for service as the power grid strains to supply electricity.

Water sources drying up The current water level in the Ertan Reservoir is only 8 meters (26 feet) above the dead water level – the minimum water level needed to generate power. The power- generating capacity of the Ertan Power Station, the major supplier of electricity in Sichuan, will be seriously limited if the Yalong River does not begin to flow more vigorously within the next few days, the article said.

If the river fails to rise, power generation at the Ertan Power Station will most likely come to a complete halt, which would trigger a power shortfall of between 1,400 kilowatt hours and 1,500 kilowatt hours per day.

Unfortunately, while the drought dries up water and damages power supplies, the demand for electricity in Sichuan has surged. Sichuan’s electricity-generating capacity and supply between January and March of this year increased by 12.61 percent over the same period last year. The average daily consumption of electricity is nearly 100 million kilowatt hours.

A source at the Sichuan Provincial Electric Power Corp. said that coal-fueled electric generators played a leading role in power generation during the winter, organized under the uniform coordination of provincial power grids. Currently, all of Sichuan’s coal-fueled power generators are operating at full capacity. A single remaining backup generator, with a generating capacity of 200,000 kilowatt hours, will be brought on line soon.

The source indicated that the Sichuan Provincial Power Corp. would ration electricity consumption if the Ertan Reservoir “dries out” and, at the same time, the overworked coal-fueled power generators break down due to mechanical failure, the story said.

(3) 75,000 people to be relocated as part of Longtan Power Station project
Apr. 6, 2001 – China Online reports that the Longtan Power Station, to be built along Guangxi’s Hongshui River, will be second in size to the Three Gorges dam but require far fewer people to be relocated.
[Full story]

– END –

All Chinese stories that are translated and published by Three Gorges Probe are as true to the original Chinese text as possible. Editing for English grammar and style is kept to a minimum in instances where misinterpretation may occur.

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. Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. As part of our service, we also reprint articles about the Three Gorges Project we feel will be of interest to our readers.

Publisher: Patricia Adams
Executive Editor: Mu Lan
Assistant Editor: Lisa Peryman

April 10, 2001

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