A severe drought along the Yangtze River region in central China has rendered nearly 1,400 reservoirs in Hubei Province temporary unusable, devastated farm fields and made drinking water scarce, according to a report on Monday by Xinhua, the state news agency. The drought, which has lasted for five months, has brought water levels in the middle part of the Yangtze down to a near-record low. For the second time since it began operating, the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, has had to make emergency water discharges to help ease the drought.
As of Sunday, four medium-size reservoirs and 1,388 small reservoirs in Hubei had dropped below the allowable discharge levels for irrigation, Xinhua reported, citing the director of the reservoir management office for the Hubei Provincial Water Resources Department. One fourth of all small reservoirs had what officials called dead water remaining that could only be pumped for use in an emergency. The drought adds to concerns over the effect that a gargantuan water-diversion project will have on the central provinces of China. The project, called the South-North Water Diversion, is supposed to move water from the Yangtze and its tributaries north to Beijing along a middle canal, and to Tianjin along the eastern route. Both routes are supposed to be fully operational within the next couple of years. Criticism of the project has become widespread, and many people along the Yangtze and in the south say precious water resources should not be sent north, which is suffering from a chronic water shortage.
The water on the middle route is supposed to flow from the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Hubei. The water level at the reservoir was measured at 135 meters on Saturday, four meters below the level at which the water is considered dead, Xinhua reported. Du Yun, a geography scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, said in an earlier interview that the central government had not done enough studies to assess the impact of the diversion project, especially when compared with all the research that was done before the building of the Three Gorges Dam to assess the dam’s impact.