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Ecologists dread new dam boom

  • Source: Global Times
  • [08:36 February 10 2011]
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Fast facts: A history of China dam catastrophes

On August 9, 1960, the newly-built Qiaodun Reservoir in Zhejiang Province collapsed during a typhoon. Built and sealed in a rush in March that year, the dam had stood at 39 meters tall, three meters above the water level when a typhoon hit in early June. Locals were hastily mobilized to elevate the height of the dam. Then when a second typhoon hit on August 9, the dam collapsed, killing at least 500 people. Some records say the death toll was 4,000. After the flood, the 100-year-old town of Qiaodun was afloat with corpses.

On August 8, 1963, after a week of heavy downpours in the upper reaches of the southern branch of the Haihe River, Liujiatai Dam, built in 1958 at the height of the Great Leap Forward near Baoding in Hebei Province, collapsed in a "one-in-20-year" flood. In 30 minutes, 40 million cubic meters of water at a rate of 28,000 cubic meters a second, rushed out of the reservoir. Some 948 people were killed, 67,000 houses damaged and more than 1,400 hectares of farmland destroyed.

On July 31, 1971, the nine-month-old Hutai Reservoir in Fushun, Liaoning Province, collapsed during a "one-in-60-year" flood, killing 512 people. At a height of 21 meters and storage capacity of 4.6 million cubic meters, the reservoir had allegedly been designed to withstand a "one-in-500-year" flood.

On August 8, 1975, Banqiao Dam, built on the Ruhe River in 1952 at Zhumadian, Henan Province as part of a flood-prevention and electricity-production program aimed at controlling the Yellow River, collapsed. At a height of 118 meters and with a storage capacity of 492 million cubic meters, it was designed to withstand a "one-in-1,000-year" flood. The Shimantan Dam on the Honghe River, the second-largest in the flood-prevention system, and two other smaller reservoirs also failed that day: 26,000 people died in the floods, according to the official death toll. After the flood receded, 145,000 people died from epidemics and from famine. Some estimates put the total death toll at more than 220,000. The number of people affected by the disaster exceeded 12 million. A Discovery Channel show on May 28, 2005, rated the Banqiao Dam collapse No.1 on a list of the "Top 10 Technological Catastrophes of the World," beating the Bhopal toxic gas leak in India on December 3, 1984, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident on April 26, 1986.

On August 29, 1993, the less than two-year-old Gouhou Reservoir in Qinghai Province collapsed, killing 328 and leaving 40 missing.

Fast facts: China & dams

China has more than 25,800 large dams, more than any other country in the world

These projects have relocated more than 10 million people from their homes and land

Chinese banks and companies in recent years have been involved in constructing some 269 dams in 67 different countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. They include Kamchay Dam in Cambodia, Mphanda Nkuwa Dam in Mozambique, Merowe Dam in Sudan and Tasang Dam in Myanmar

Dammed, diverted and polluted, China's rivers are reaching an ecological tipping point

Source: US-based International Rivers

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