Central China Hit by Drought, as Reservoirs Become ï¿½Dead Waterï¿½
By EDWARD WONGPublished: May 16, 2011
BEIJING ï¿½ A severe drought along the Yangtze River region in central
China has rendered nearly 1,400 reservoirs in Hubei Province
temporarily unusable, devastated farm fields and made drinking water
scarce, according to a report on Monday by Xinhua, the state news
The drought, which has lasted for five months, has brought water
levels in the middle part of the Yangtze to a near-record low. For the
second time since the Three Gorges Dam, the worldï¿½s largest
hydroelectric project, began operating, officials have had to make
emergency water discharges from it to help ease the drought.
As of Sunday, 4 medium-size reservoirs and 1,388 small reservoirs in
Hubei had dropped below the allowable discharge levels for irrigation,
the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the director of the
reservoir management office for the Hubei Provincial Water Resources
Department. One-fourth of all small reservoirs had what officials
called ï¿½dead waterï¿½ remaining, which could be pumped for use only in
The drought adds to concerns over the effect that a gargantuan water-
diversion project will have on the central provinces of China. The
project, called the South-North Water Diversion, is supposed to move
water from the Yangtze and its tributaries north to Beijing along a
canal, and to Tianjin along an eastern route.
Both routes are supposed to be fully operational within the next
couple of years. Criticism of the project has become widespread, and
many people along the Yangtze and in the south say precious water
resources should not be sent north, where there has been a chronic
The water on the middle route is supposed to flow from the Danjiangkou
Reservoir in Hubei. The water level at the reservoir was measured at
443 feet on Saturday, about 13 feet below the level at which the water
is considered dead, Xinhua reported.
Du Yun, a geography scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, said in an earlier interview that the
central government had not done enough studies to assess the impact of
the diversion project, especially when compared with all the research
that was done before the building of the Three Gorges Dam.
ï¿½For that project, the preliminary discussion and studies phase was
decades long,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½There was the participation of institutions
and experts from across China. Compared to that, this water diversion
project did not do as comprehensive a preliminary study as the Three
Gorges project did.ï¿½
As of Saturday, the drought had left 315,000 people and 97,300 head of
livestock in Hubei short of drinking water, and more than two million
acres of farmland had been affected, Xinhua reported. In neighboring
Henan Province, the drought had affected at least 320,000 people.
Officials discharged 400 million cubic meters of water from the Three
Gorges Dam from May 7 to May 11, according to Wang Hai, a spokesman
for the damï¿½s construction and operation management bureau, Xinhua
reported on Thursday.
This discharge is aimed at fighting the current drought and raising
levels of the Yangtze to aid shipping. People in the city of Yichang,
where the dam stands, have been hit especially hard. They say they
have had to buy water rather than relying on water from their land.
The water levels in the section of the Yangtze between Yichang and
Jiujiang in Jiangxi Province were about 8 to 18 feet lower than
average, Xinhua reported, citing a statement by the Hubei provincial
flood control and drought relief headquarters.
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