The Three Gorges Dam in central China's Hubei Province Thursday
opened its floodgates to ease severe water shortages along the
The world's largest hydropower project has been releasing larger
quantities of water since late December, according to the China
Three Gorges Project Corporation.
The company said the dam could release an additional 6.1 billion
cubic meters of water to the lower reaches by reducing the
reservoir's water level from the current 155 to 144 meters.
The dam, 2,309 meters long and 185 meters high, was completed in
May last year and the water level in the reservoir was raised from
135 to 156 meters in October. The company said the floodgates could
maintain the water level at 144 meters.
The Yangtze River, China’s largest waterway, has experienced the
lowest water levels in around a hundred years since last summer due
to scarce rainfall and severe drought in the upper reaches,
according to the Yangtze River Hydrology Bureau. The bureau said
that in 2006 there was 30 to 40 percent less water flow than
average in the river’s tributaries.
The Yichang hydrology station, downstream from the dam, recorded
only 64 percent of average annual water flow. This is the lowest
since hydrology records began in 1877. Water flow downstream in
Hankou and Datong has also fallen off sharply.
The bureau said the severe water shortage had led to occasional
reports of boats being stranded in the shallows and difficulties in
water resources for industry, agriculture and households.
Cheng Haiyun, the bureau's chief engineer, has denied
suggestions that the record low water levels were connected to the
Three Gorges hydropower project.
Started in 1993 and costing an estimated 180 billion yuan (US$23
billion) the Three Gorges Project on the middle reaches of the
river will have 26 generators when complete in 2009 and be capable
of generating 84.7 billion kwh of electricity annually.
(Xinhua News Agency January 12, 2007)