1950s-built dams in danger of collapsing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 12:00am

Nearly 40 per cent of China's dams are in danger of collapsing if the wet weather continues and urgent maintenance is not carried out, an expert has warned.

Shen Zhenzhong , a Hohai University professor of water resources based in Nanjing, attributes the problem to a lack of maintenance.

Professor Shen said many of the dams, built in the 1950s, required large-scale maintenance to ensure their structural safety. 'They are in a dangerous state, particularly during serious floods,' he said.

According to the latest China News Weekly magazine, a 2003 Ministry of Water Resources study found that of the mainland's 84,000 dams used to generate electricity and irrigate farms, nearly 40 per cent had safety risks. About 3,500 dams had collapsed since 1954, an average of 71 per year, the magazine reported.

Most of the dangerous dams were in the central regions, including Hunan , Hubei , Jiangxi and Sichuan .

Guangdong's dams were also badly in need of repair, with nearly 55 per cent in a dangerous state, the report said.

Gong Jianxin , an official of the Water Resources Bureau in Shangrao , Jiangxi, said it was fortunate none of the city's dams had collapsed during the recent heavy rain. 'But I would not be optimistic about the dams staying intact if we have a great flood like we did in 1998.'

The ministry has started using a budget of 30 billion yuan to upgrade the country's dams and work is expected to finish by 2015.