Banks Of China’s Yangtze River at Risk of ‘Disastrous Collapse’

May 15, 2007

The banks of China’s massive Yangtze River, a lifeline for tens of millions of people, are at risk of collapse, a state-run newspaper reported Monday. The China Daily said a recent inspection showed that banks on portions of the river were in danger.

“Such a collapse would be disastrous if it happened during the flood season,” Luo Huilin, deputy secretary-general of the Jingzhou city government in central China’s Hubei province, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The Yangtze is 3,860 miles (6,200 kilometers) long and runs from the Tibetan plateau to the sea near Shanghai, passing through some of China’s major cities, such as Chongqing and Nanjing.

Inspectors with the office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said the natural river banks along some sections of the Jingjiang River, part of the Yangtze, could be at risk of collapse.

Luo said collapses had been occurring along the Jingjiang with increasing frequency in recent years. The latest was in Shishou on March 22, when a section 30 meters (33 yards) long and eight meters (nine yards) wide crumbled.

According to the China Meteorological Administration, a major flood is likely to hit the Yangtze this summer because of heavy rains and typhoons along its middle and lower reaches.

Officials have stepped up efforts to protect the Yangtze river valley, reinforcing 2,259 kilometers (1,404 miles) of riverbanks, dredging 5,093 kilometers (3165 miles) of river bed and improving 2,833 reservoirs.

Li Chunsheng, an official with the Hubei provincial flood control office, said the province had allocated 30 million yuan (US$3.9 million, €2.89 million) to prevent collapses, and that 21 vulnerable banks would be reinforced before this summer.

According to a Chinese Academy of Sciences report last month, the Yangtze accounts for 35 percent of China’s total fresh water resources. But the report found that more than 370 miles of the river are in critical condition due to pollution, with almost 30 percent of its major tributaries seriously polluted.

It also showed that the huge reservoir created by the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s biggest hydropower project, was seriously polluted by pesticides, fertilizers and sewage.

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