The world’s largest dam in China, Three Gorges Dam is being tested to its limits as widespread flooding continues along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with all of its major arteries already swamped.
Constant rain has raised concerns about the integrity of the dam in recent weeks.
Officials deny claims the dam is in danger of collapsing, but experts disagree.
Fan Xiao, chief engineer with Sichuan’s Provincial Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources says the dam has only held 9 per cent of this year’s Yangtze floods.
“The dam can only temporarily intercept flooding upstream, but it can do nothing to the flooding from heavy rains in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze,” Mr Xiao told the Asia Times.
Mr Xiao went on to suggest that large cement structures such as the Three Gorges Dam may even exacerbate flooding, by altering flows in the rivers’ lower reaches.
Heavy rain has battered central and southern China over the past few weeks, the worst in decades – floods impacting more than 45 million people in China’s 27 provinces since the beginning of June this year.
This has mounted an economic cost of US$ 16 billion.
According to the Ministry of Emergency Management, as of July 23, 142 people were dead or missing and 35,000 houses had collapsed due to floods.
In 1993 floods killed 2 million people and in 1998 one-fifth of the country’s population was affected, more than 3,000 people died and cost more than $28 billion.
China began building the controversial Three Gorges Dam in 1994 as part of the government’s heavy investment in flood control projects.
It is the world’s largest hydroelectricity dam spanning Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze, and has an average capacity three times its counterparts built prior to 2000.
The mega-dam is capable of handling inflows of up to 83.7 million litres per second, with the most recent peak inflow reaching over 60 million litres last week.