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October 26, 2009

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Dam defends reservoir storage

CHINA Three Gorges Corp yesterday defended ongoing plans to raise reservoir water levels amid a crippling drought.

The company said raising the level to 175 meters would help prepare for a possible worsening of the big dry.

Yuan Jie, chief of the corporation's control center, said in Yichang, capital of central China's Hubei Province, that there was a much bigger gap between water storage and supply this year compared with 2008.

Beginning yesterday morning, the Three Gorges project increased its water flow to downstream to more than 9,000 cubic meters per second, about 38 percent more than originally planned, to relieve drought conditions.

Yuan said although the water-storage plan would have an effect on the Yangtze River's middle and lower reaches, it would help improve supplies in those areas during the mostly dry months of January and February next year.

Severe drought has been reported in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze and southern Guangdong Province over the past month, leaving more than 1.5 million people short of drinking water and thousands of hectares of cropland in peril.

The water level of the Three Gorges reservoir stood at 170.47 meters about 11am yesterday.

Drought worries

Zheng Shouren, chief engineer of the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee, said those blaming the drought in Hunan and Jiangxi solely on the Three Gorges project were wrong.

"The drought in Hunan and Jiangxi was mainly caused by a lack of rainfall in the regions amid continuous high temperatures since September," said Zheng, who is also an academic of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

To ease drought worries next year, Zheng suggested the project should begin storage initiatives earlier.

If the Three Gorges reservoir failed to raise its water level to 175 meters this year, Zheng said, drought conditions in the Yangtze's middle and lower reaches might worsen.

Farms and China's most important industrial area are built beside the Yangtze, with millions of people living in cities like Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai downstream of the Three Gorges dam.

The dam discharges its reservoir water during the dry season between December and March every year, increasing the flow rate of the river downstream and providing more water for agricultural and industrial use.

Li Yong'an, general manager of the company, said on Saturday the company had slowed down the pace of raising the water level in the reservoir to help relieve drought conditions.

China's ministries of environmental protection, land and resources, and other organizations are closely monitoring the dam's performance in areas such as water quality in the reservoir and silting.


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