06/19/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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About 37,000 Chinese dams deem “unsafe”, some on the verge of collapse

China Daily blames the problem on shoddy construction, unqualified workers and embezzled public funds. Now that the flood season is right around the corner the authorities call for maximum alert to prevent collapses.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In China 37,000 reservoirs (40 per cent of the total) are in potential danger, some just a few years after they were built, the China Daily reported. Shoddy construction, unqualified workers and embezzlement of public funds are at the root of the problem according to the Communist Party’s semi-official mouthpiece.

Once the pride of the state as means to generate clear and cheap energy several dams along the Yellow River in Gansu Province are now in a very bad situation, some on the verge of collapse.

An 80-m long and 20-m high dike built in Yuanxian County in 2006 has developed a breach about 10 meters wide in the middle.

According to nearby villagers, at least five other newly-built dams are in very fragile condition.

As flood season approaches in July, August and September, China's dam safety is coming under heavy pressure and inspections show many of them are not in good condition, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said.

Recently work has begun on 3,642 reservoirs to reinforce and another 7,611 need immediate action.

Since 2003 China has invested a total of 83 billion yuan (US$ 12 billion) into dam building and tackling soil erosion.

From 1999 to 2008, a total of 59 dams were breached nationwide, some by torrential rain others because of quality defects.

Alert levels are high this year in Sichuan, which was hit by a devastating earthquake in May of last year, and home to 90 per cent of China’s dams.

What is more, many dams have not even generated the amount of power they were designed for.

In many cases dam construction had a huge negative impact on the environment and on residents.

Entire villages and millions of people were forced to leave, their homes and fields now under water.

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