Three Gorges Probe

Drought poses a risk to reservoir and people

(January 6, 2010) A severe drought around the Yangtze River has caused the water level in the Three Gorges Reservoir to stay much lower than the anticipated level of 175 meters and that could complicate plans for farmers and millions of others who rely on the river to survive.

The Yangtze, which stretches 6,300 kilometers across most of China, has been feeling the effects of the drought that began in October.

The low level has hindered the flow of traffic.

“The reservoir started reserving water in advance from September 15 of last year in order to reach the goal, but now the water level has only reached 169 meters,” Xu Ming, an ecosystem expert from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told the Global Times Tuesday after returning from the dam site this week.

The high level is important for power generation and navigation purposes to ensure that the Three Gorges project fulfill its intended goals. Water is important to ensure smooth water traffic, replenish the lower reaches of the river and to generate electricity.

At 8 am Sunday, the water level in the upper reaches of the Three Gorges Dam stood at 162.26 meters, a decline of 2.17 meters, compared with the maximum water level of 171.43 recorded last year.

The water level in the Yangtze River continued to drop because of poor rainfall and the water storage problem of the Three Gorges Reservoir. The water level in Wuhu Lake, in the river’s lower stream, reached 0.97 meters on Sunday.

According to anhuinews. com, there is a distance of 200 to 500 meters between the water and the levee in Wuhu Lake, meaning the river course has narrowed.

Some vessels are unable to dock and the marshland along the water is cracking.

“The water level of Wuhu Lake only reached 0.55 meters on last January 25, breaking the record for decades,” said Wang Yuhong who works in the office that oversees Wuhu Lake. “The level dropped to below 2 meters for 122 days in 2009, compared with fewer than 110 days each year from 2006 to 2008.”

He said Wuhu usually enters the dry season in November but now the dry season comes a month earlier and the high tide season during the spring has virtually disappeared.

Dongting Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in China located along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, has seen its water level drop by more than 90 percent compared with its average capacity during the flood season, local residents said.

“The dry season arrived in early November last year, earlier than in 2008, and will continue till this March. It influences our business and affects our production,” Xiang Zaisheng, a fish farm owner in Dongting Lake, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Ma Dechao, director of the freshwater project at the World Wide Fund, said last month that the ecosystem in the Yangtze River has experienced significant changes after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.

CAS’s Xu said measures should be taken to deal with the impact caused by the project.

“Experts from the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research are doing research on how to optimize the scheduling of the Three Gorges project to improve water traffic and solve ecosystem problems,” he added.

Deng Jingyin, Global Times, January 6, 2010

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Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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