China's Three Gorges Dam increases water discharges to counter drought

08:13, May 12, 2011      

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China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric power station, has discharged more water to help counter a severe spring drought in central Hubei Province.

As of Wednesday morning, the Three Gorges Dam had discharged about 4 hundred million cubic meters of water since Saturday, lowering the water level of the dam by 0.7 meters, said Wang Hai, a spokesman from the dam's construction and operation management bureau.

The dam has accelerated its discharge rate to 7,000 cubic meters per second, about 1,500 to 2,000 cubic meters faster than its inflow speed, said Wang.

The discharge is meant not only to help with the fight against the severe drought currently plaguing the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, but also ensure shipping safety, said Zheng Shouren, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief engineer with the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee.

"If there was no Three Gorges Dam, the drought would be worse and shipping on the Yangtze would be very hazardous," Zheng said.

Known as China's "land of a thousand lakes," Hubei is still suffering from a prolonged drought that began last winter.

About 400,000 people in the province have had to go without drinking water as a result of the drought and approximately 13 million mu (about 870,000 hectares) of farmland have been affected by it, according to the Hubei provincial agricultural department.

The city of Yichang, where the dam is located, has been particularly hard-hit by the worst drought seen in the region in fifty years.

"For years, we drank and used water stored in our cellar. But since there has been little rainfall for so long, we have had to buy or carry water from miles away," said Zhang Jinghuang, a 65-year-old farmer from the village of Wenxiandong in Yichang.

Zhang said that he never dreamed of having to actually buy his own water, as it has always been readily available. However, villages in the drought-affected region have purchased 130 large tanks of water since April, with each tank costing more than 100 yuan.

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