China’s controversial Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world, has drawn scrutiny for its structural flaws and environmental damage ever since its construction was first proposed in the 1950s.
As torrential rainstorms are currently sweeping through half of China, a hydrology expert warns that the dam could collapse under the added pressure, endangering the lives of millions who reside nearby.
Widespread flooding has affected at least 11.2 million people in 26 Chinese provinces and municipalities across central and southern China since heavy rainfall began wreaking havoc in early June. More than 9,300 houses have tumbled and 171,000 others have sustained damage. The financial damage has surpassed 24.1 billion yuan ($3.4 billion), according to local authorities.
The record rainfall is forecasted to continue for another 10 days.
In Guizhou, a mountainous province in China’s southwest, the stormwater at one point rose to 16 feet higher than acceptable thresholds.
The flooding in Yanhe County caused water to cascade over a bridge and wash away houses underneath.
“It’s a hotpot in water,” Mr. Liu, a resident of Qijiang County, in the southwestern city of Chongqing, said in an interview. The flooding, he said, is “sounding a warning to the rest of China.” If the nearby Three Gorges Dam cannot withstand the water right now, the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, one of the country’s most fertile and populous regions, would be in serious trouble, he predicted.
‘Pressed From Both Ends’
Built with the stated objective of taming the flood-prone Yangtze River and generating clean energy, the massive 180 billion yuan ($25.4 billion) project has been plagued by corruption and environmental costs. Authorities’ forced relocation of over 1 million residents further fueled public anger.