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China says drought and floods aren’t fault of dam Three Gorges project affects only immediate area, researchers report

November 19, 2011

The International Herald Tribune Asia Edition (The International Herald
Tribune - Asia Pacific edition)
- Clipping Loc. 392-417 | Added on Monday, November 14, 2011, 07:30 AM


A scientific study has found that the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s
largest hydropower project, has not contributed to climate change,
according to a report by Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency. The study,
published by the Social Sciences Academic Press under the Chinese Academy
of Social Sciences, focused on climate change and found that the dam’s
environmental impact was limited to a 20-kilometer, or 12-mile, radius,
the Xinhua article said. ‘‘No direct link has been found between the dam
and local severe droughts and floods in recent years, according to the
report, which instead laid the blame on extreme weather conditions caused
by abnormal atmospheric circulation and air temperature mainly incurred by
changes in ocean temperature and snow conditions at the Qinghai-Tibet
Plateau,’’ according to the article, which was published Friday. The
results of the study were the first to be released publicly since
controversy over the dam has grown this year. Critics of the dam and some
Chinese news organizations raised questions in the spring about whether
the dam had worsened the effects of a drought that hit the Yangtze River
region of central and southern China. The Three Gorges Dam stands in the
middle of the Yangtze River. The newspaper Shanghai Daily reported in
early June that an official in the drought relief and flood control bureau
said that the dam’s planners had failed to gauge its impact properly. The
official, Wang Jingquan, said that water levels in two lakes downstream
from the dam, Dongting in Hunan Province and Poyang in Jiangxi Province,
had fallen, in part because of the storage of water in the reservoir
behind the dam. In May, two Chinese officials warned of ‘‘urgent
problems’’ associated with the dam. The drought was the worst in the
region in 50 years, and water levels in the Yangtze and bodies of water
linked to it fell drastically. This led to greater scrutiny of the dam. On
the Internet, many Chinese asked whether the dam was at least partly
responsible for the drought. Several scientists, including at least one
American, said then that there was no evidence that the dam had caused the
drought. Rainfall in early June began to alleviate the drought. The Xinhua
report on Friday said the recent study, called ‘‘Green Book of Climate
Change: Annual Report on Actions to Address Climate Change,’’ recommended
that ‘‘the authorities strengthen monitoring, evaluation and research of
the climate condition in regions around the dam.’’ The drought this year
also raised questions about another ambitious water project, the
South-North Water Diversion, which is forecast to cost about 400 billion
renminbi, or $62 billion. Chinese leaders aim to transfer at least 22
trillion liters, or 6 trillion gallons, of water a year via canals from
the Yangtze and its tributaries to cities in the north, where droughts are
much worse than in the center and the south. The middle route of the
project, which starts at the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Hubei Province, is
expected to begin operating in 2014. The eastern route, which runs
alongside the ancient Grand Canal, is expected to be operational by 2013.
Critics say the government has not done enough studies to determine the
project’s impact on waterways in the south.

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