China's Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng has warned that nearly 30,000 reservoirs, or 36 percent of the country's total, have safety problems that deserve special attention as many areas of the country have entered the flood season.
The minister, also deputy chief of the National Flood Prevention and Drought Control Headquarters, said it is key for local officials to ensure those reservoirs to get through the flood season safe and sound.
China had 85,288 reservoirs with a combined storage capacity of 559.4 billion cubic meters by the end of 2002. The problems include worsening seepage and dams in danger of collapsing because of aging or substandard design.
According to the minister, nearly 30 percent of the reservoirs with safety problems are large and medium-sized ones, while the problems are more serious for small ones.
The headquarters, which coordinates the country's flood prevention and control efforts, has ordered local governments to be better prepared, including assigning principal officials to oversee the flood control efforts.
Citing inspection results, the minister said there have been a lack of sound management mechanism and preparation for possible flooding for many small reservoirs, including a lack of early-warning system and communications facilities.
The headquarters has urged local officials to ensure large and key medium-sized reservoirs would not break down during this flood season, and other medium-sized and smaller ones will not collapse in floods within the designed flood control capacity of those reservoirs.
Officials concerned would be held responsible for safety accidents involving reservoirs.
The ministry estimated about 33 billion yuan (US$3.9 billion) will be needed to reinforce all of the dangerous reservoirs, and all of the substandard reservoirs are scheduled to be upgraded to the state-set safety standards by 2010.
(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2004)