Chinese experts explain the cause of serious floods

Avatar of Nick John By Nick John Dec9,2023 #Chinese #experts
Chinese experts explain the cause of serious floods 2
Chinese experts explain the cause of serious floods 2

Fan Xiao, a geologist at the Sichuan Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, said decades of land reclamation and dam construction on rivers in the Yangtze River basin have reduced the area and volume of Poyang Lake,

About 1,300 km of land was reclaimed there from 1954 to 1998, causing the lake’s surface area to shrink from 5,160 km2 to 3,860 km2, according to research by David Shankman, a geographer at the University of Alabama, USA.

Vehicles were submerged by floods in Tongjiang district, Guizhou province, in early June. Photo: SCMP

Zhang Wenbin, an environmentalist, said he once investigated illegal land reclamation at Thac Lam, another freshwater lake in Jiangxi province.

`There are many similar cases,` Zhang said, saying Thac Lam Lake has shrunk in size, reducing its water capacity.

China is experiencing its worst floods in decades.

In some of the worst-hit areas, such as Jiangxi, dikes broke and houses were destroyed, reminding local people of the 1998 flood that killed more than 3,000 people and left 15 million homeless.

`We were on higher ground so we didn’t expect the flood to be so serious. The water rushed in. I had to drive to the store to package goods,` said Ping Ping, owner of a ceramics store in Jingdezhen.

`Before, I only saw floods on TV. That night, the floodwaters first rose up to my knees, then continued to rise again,` she said.

`The Jingdezhen government must think about this. Every year we hear flood warnings, so shop owners often have experience in what to prepare when,` she said, questioning why.

Chinese experts explain the cause of serious floods

Dyke breach in China’s largest freshwater lake

The dike broke in Poyang, China’s largest freshwater lake, on July 13.

In the summer, China often experiences floods, but illegal land reclamation and climate change have contributed to more severe consequences and longer flood periods.

`The subtropical high pressure system in the northwest Pacific this year is very strong,` said Song Lianchung, director of the China National Meteorological Center.

Another reason is global warming, he added.

After the 1998 flood disaster, Beijing increased funding for flood control projects.

`China’s budget invested in water infrastructure in the five years after 1998 more than the total budget from 1949 to 1999,` said Cheng Xiatao, an expert with the National Disaster Reduction Commission.

Cheng said many reservoirs were built on China’s major rivers after 1998, including the giant Three Gorges Dam, which played a key role in `reducing flood pressure on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River`.

Chinese experts explain the cause of serious floods

The Three Gorges Dam released floodwaters on July 2 in Yichang city, Hubei province.

However, experts have questioned whether such giant dams can effectively control floods downstream and the Three Gorges, the world’s largest dam, was built in 2006 to ‘tame’ the river.

Mr. Fan believes that the dam can partially prevent floods upstream, but is not very effective in controlling floods in the middle and lower reaches of the Truong Giang.

Peter Gleick, a hydrometeorologist and member of the American Academy of Sciences, said that the Three Gorges Dam draws a big lesson that no dam, no matter how large, can prevent flood disasters.

`What we’re just learning is that human-caused climate change increases the risk of extreme rains and floods, making it impossible for dams like the Three Gorges to prevent future major floods,` he said.

Liu Junyan, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia, said the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events are increasing, meaning China should consider this factor.

`Planning and construction need to be considered to meet the requirements of dealing with future climate risks,` Liu said.

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