(October 20, 2011) China’s major rivers are in decline, and hydropower output is suffering.
Two recent reports show that China’s hydropower output has fallen drastically over the past year, as decreased runoff from major rivers has led to falling reservoir levels in China’s major dams. The Bureau of Statistics stated that hydropower output was one-fifth lower than last September, while the National Development and Reform Commission measured a decrease of 24.5% – a loss of nearly a quarter.
The decrease in riverflow is due, in part, to China’s dam-building boom: the Yellow River nearly dried up after 3,300 dams were constructed over 50 years and a recent report from Sichuan-based geologist Fan Xiao states that “the Yangtze will run dry,” as the capacity of its dams exceeds the river’s flow.
These numbers raise serious questions about the reliability of China’s hydropower infrastructure, with the government warning that falling output could lead to winter power shortages in the hydropower-dependent south and central regions of the country. In this context, China’s plan to build sixty new hydro projects over the next five years makes little sense.