(April 17, 2012) Nearly 100,000 people living in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area face relocation due to the threat of geological disaster, which has increased since the dam was filled to its highest water level.
Nearly 100,000 people in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir region may be relocated over the next three to five years due to an increased threat from dam-related geological disaster, an official with China’s Ministry of Land and Resources announced this week on China National Radio (CNR).
According to Liu Yuan, an inspector for the Ministry of Land and Resources, Department of Geological Environment, and director of the ministry’s Three Gorges Geological Disaster Prevention Office, landslides and bank collapses in [large] dam reservoir areas are to be expected when dams are filled to their highest water level. He said that during the past nine years, a number of incidents related to landslides and bank collapses had occurred in the Three Gorges Dam reservoir area, but such threats had been managed through disaster prevention and early warning strategies.
Disaster prevention, however, is ‘really tough’, said Liu, and the future was not ‘optimistic’ for the Three Gorges area. Since October 2010, when the reservoir was first filled to its highest level of 175 m, more than 70% of the ‘risky’ incidents that have occurred in the reservoir area could be categorized as sudden and formed a pattern that demonstrated an increase in the potential for hazardous and unpredictable threats. Urgent measures were now required, he said, as a possible increase in landslides and bank collapses not only posed a threat to people living in the reservoir region (Liu announced 100,000 may face relocation), but also, Liu admits, to shipping traffic on the Yangtze River, which is a site of great interest to tourists.
Shanghai Daily reports that an increasing number of monitoring sites were seeing adverse effects from the reservoir’s maximum water level.
“We will start to deal with the rock falls and landslides at 335 sites and call for people to work together to monitor the 5,386 potential danger sites. We also need to replace the affected monitoring sites and displace about 100,000 residents,” Liu told CNR, Shanghai Daily reports.
Liu said his Ministry would work with local governments in the region to implement disaster prevention and management measures.
A growing list of woes
In May 2011, the Chinese government finally conceded publicly some of what critics had warned all along — that the Three Gorges Dam project was troubled and faced a number of concerns: ecological deterioration, the potential for geological disasters and the status of relocated residents.
In its statement addressing the issue, the government promised to “properly handle the negative effects brought by the project to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and improve the long-term mechanisms for geological disaster prevention.”
The most dramatic scenario facing the region cited by critics is the potential for seismic disturbance or even a catastrophic earthquake.
The following is a translation of the China National Radio news report of Liu Yuan’s announcement.
Nearly 100,000 more people to be relocated with the increase of geological disasters in Three Gorges reservoir area
By Feng Huiling
China National Radio (Zhongguang Wang), April 16, 2012
The Three Gorges Dam authority has tried three times to fill the Three Gorges Dam reservoir to its NPL (normal pool level) of 175 metres since 2009, and finally got the job done in October 2010.
In general, in the first three to five years after (large) dam reservoirs are filled to their highest level, new incidents of landslides and bank collapses in the reservoir area are to be expected. As such, the prevention of geological disasters is really tough and that is why around 100,000 people living in the reservoir region are now facing relocation, says an official with China’s Ministry of Land and Resources.
Talking to a reporter from China National Radio [the national radio station of the People’s Republic of China], Liu Yuan, an inspector for the Ministry of Land and Resources, Department of Geological Environment, and director of the Office of the Three Gorges Geological Disaster Prevention Leading Group, said a number of incidents related to landslides and bank collapses have occurred every year in the Three Gorges reservoir area. But there have been zero casualties and injuries, he says, thanks to the monitoring in place and a timely warning system over the past nine years. In the near future, however, he says the prevention and control of geological disasters in the Three Gorges area is not optimistic.
Liu Yuan: Over 70% of geological disasters (and risky incidents in the Three Gorges reservoir area) can be categorized as sudden incidents (that have occurred) since the reservoir was filled to 175 m (first managed in October 2010). In some places, the geological disasters (and risky incidents) are associated with the filling and dropping of the water levels, and there is a growing tendency (of the situation), so urgent measures such as engineering projects and relocation are needed to be taken. In some places where landslides and bank collapses have occurred along the reservoir, even if no people and housing are there, the surging waves are dangerous and pose a serious threat to shipping on the Yangtze River.
Liu Yuan said that in the coming period of time, the Ministry of Land and Resources will cooperate with Hubei Province and Chongqing Municipality to properly implement various prevention and control tasks.
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