The Three Gorges Dam has increased water discharge to maintain normal shipping along China's longest river, the Yangtze, which is suffering its worst drought in 50 years.
The discharge speed reached 5,500 cu m per second Thursday, 300 cu m more than Tuesday, when the dam started to alleviate the effects of the drought, according to the China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), builder of the world's largest hydropower project.
Lower rainfall on the river's upper reaches has reduced water levels in the middle reaches by up to 2 m. The average water level has decreased by 1.5 m.
In the past month, at least 26 cargo ships have been stranded in the sections around Yichang, Wuhan and Jingzhou of Hubei Province, and Jiujiang, Hukou of the neighboring Jiangxi Province, according to the Yangtze River Maritime Administration.
By Thursday afternoon, water levels in the Yichang section, near the start of the middle reaches, had gone up 0.5 m.
The discharge program is scheduled to last until Tuesday, when the CTGPC will decide to carry on or reduce water discharge volumes.
According to an order issued by the Yichang maritime bureau, every cargo ship must undergo weight checks at eight harbors in the city of Yichang and unload excess goods before continuing.
An average of 170 cargo ships use the route every day. More than 1,000 workers, 100 boats and 18 dredgers are digging out silt in the river to maintain the route.
The Yangtze, which is 6,300 km long, experiences a dry season between November and April. This is often followed by spring flooding.
(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2007)