Three Gorges Dam: Drown Between Droughts and Floods

In just one week, the center of China has gone from absolute drought to floods that have killed more than 100 and 40 missing. Schizophrenic weather that has baffled the country and has left in ruin tens of thousands of farmers, fishermen and farmers who live along the Yangtze, the longest river in Asia, which runs through China as his spinal cord and provides water and food in abundance to supply the country.

Before the rains become masters of central China, the country was immersed in the worst drought in 60 years. The picture presented in China was impressive. The river reached record lows after receiving less than 30% of usual rainfall volume.

The drought affected 36 million people and over four million had difficulty in obtaining supplies of drinking water. The problem is that the much desired rain has eased the drought, but has not solved the root of the problem: crops are destroyed, the population is on the brink of ruin and the ecosystem of the entire region hangs in the balance.

The situation is dramatic and, in the midst of disaster, a guilty sounding increasingly louder, the Three Gorges Dam, a huge plug seated in the middle reaches of Yangtze River has contributed to destabilizing the most fertile and rich in biodiversity of China. A huge project that became a symbol of development in the nineties and now is starting to backfire.

The dam carries “urgent problems to be solved, the proper resettlement of affected residents is required to prevent ecological and geological disaster.” Said the State Council, “there were several problems during the planning and construction [completed in 2006], but could not be resolved immediately because the conditions of the moment.” An admission of historic guilt in response to the criticism of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest and most expensive hydro-electric projectin the world (18,000 megawatts of power and 20,000 million euros).

“There are several problems which were not considered in the design of the project and are discovered now, after a decade. I think the best lesson we can draw from China’s Three Gorges Dam is how to prevent another megaproject causing devastating effects again.” said Li Yan, an energy specialist at Greenpeace China. The Government is building dozens of energy facilities, dams in many cases and, according to Li, the Three Gorges Dam is being taken as reference of what not to do. “Some political analysts even suggest that Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Vice President of China, want to distance themselves from a project they inherited and which they are not entirely agree.

According to official sources, the dam has halved the flow of the Yangtze, a river vital to the balance of China, which produces 65.7% of all rice consumed in the country and much of the reserves of freshwater fish. Thousands of farmers and farmers are desperate, and the exodus to the city began to be constant.

“It is impossible to know how much of the damage done can be remedied,” says Li, of Greenpeace. “But what is a fact that drought will become a chronic problem throughout the region, and farmers should accompany their planning concerning floods and droughts. The Government must act immediately.” Specifically, Li urged to renovate totally obsolete and inefficient irrigation systems across the country, in addition to approving plans to drastically reduce pollution levels.

Meanwhile, Beijing has announced an emergency plan to cover about 2,000 million euros losses caused by drought and torrential rains.