Satellite images of the dam over the years show structural disintegration which could cause its eventual collapse (Image source: oilprice.com)
The Three Gorges Dam built on the river Yangtze River has been deemed a a environmentally hazardous project right from its beginning given its geographical position and its effect on earth plates. Now, China’s own renowned hydrologist Wang Weiluo has questioned the safety of the massive Dam and has warned that it could collapse at any moment.
Regional rainstorms and mudslides that began in early June have uprooted more than 7,300 houses and affected nearly eight million people by the end of the month. The nonstop heavy rains had raised the Chinese public’s concerns over the potential damage caused to the world’s biggest hydro-power project. But Chinese authorities and government have been tight lipped over these concerns and have not revealed their plan of action in case of any damage. They have maintained that the dam is structurally safe.
Hydrologist Wang Weiluo is not convinced of the government assurances and has claimed that the facility is not as stable as many have been led to believe. Wangs concerns over the condition of the dam was reported by a Chinese online portal New Talk.
Wang pointed out that the dam’s design, construction, and quality inspection were all carried out by the same group of people and that the project was finished too quickly. He said that the Three Gorges Dam is not equipped to handle the rise in the river water levels and will have a limited effect on flood control. This was confessed by Chinese Vice Minister of Water Resources Ye Jianchun at a June 10 press conference where he said that water levels of at least 148 rivers in the country have risen above warning thresholds. Wang warned that if the dam is forced to control flood due to rising water levels, it could give way leading to a catastrophe.
Wang also said that the cracks and substandard concrete discovered during its construction is a serious concern. He said a failure of the dam would have catastrophic consequences for individuals residing in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and that they should prepare for evacuation as soon as possible.
Chinese stated-owned CNTV, itself had reported that water inside the Three Gorges Dam continues to accumulate and has risen two meters above its flood-prevention level. China’s propaganda machinery hails the dam as one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history, but experts have always questioned its structural integrity.
Environmentally hazardous from the Beginning
Hydrological experts had warned of the dam being environmentally hazardous due to several factors. Two uniquely identified hazards with the dam were the unviable sedimentation projections and seismic fault on which the dam sits. 80% of the land in the dam area experienced soil erosion, depositing about 40 million tons of sediment into the Yangtze annually, a fact that was ignored by the Chinese government.
Hydrologists had warned during construction that they expect downstream riverbanks to become more vulnerable to flooding. They had also warned that the sediment buildup could cause biological damage and reduces aquatic biodiversity.
Erosion in the reservoir, induced by rising water, have caused frequent major landslides that have led to noticeable disturbance in the reservoir surface. Two incidents in May 2009 confirmed this when somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 cubic metres (26,000 and 65,000 cu yd) of material plunged into the flooded Wuxia Gorge of the Wu River.
The dam has also affected the forest cover, wildlife, and terrestrial impact and its waste management is also under a cloud.