Heavy Flooding Continues to Inundate China This Summer

Heavy flooding in China. Image: Paul Gonzalez/Flickr

by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

This week, China is facing its fifth major flood this summer, Tanner Brown reported for MarketWatch. This extreme flooding has officially reached the Three Gorges Dam, and is said to be “pummelling” the structure. As The Guardian reported yesterday, inflows to the “world’s largest hydro-electric dam reached 75m litres of water a second… By Thursday morning, 11 outlets of the dam had been opened to discharge 49.2m litres of water a second, the largest release since its construction.”

As the Asia Nikkei Review explained, Chinese officials are calling this “once in a century” flooding which has affected around 55 million people in 27 of China’s 31 provinces since flooding began in June.

Why This Matters: Right now, the dam can handle inflows of “about 98.8m litres a second.” That means that it is “already approaching its capacity,” as The Guardian pointed out. While state officials have “downplayed” this possibility that the dam could rupture, many are already concerned about the humanitarian and economic consequences of the flooding. Already, the floods this summer have caused “$25 million worth of damage and the displacement of millions of people.”

A Controversial History: The Three Gorges Dam has had a controversial history since its inception. As Brown reported, the construction of the dam, whose body was completed in 2006, “forced the displacement of more than a million people, and the reservoir it created flooded archaeological sites and the towns around them.” Now, the dam represents a crucial energy source for China, producing “roughly the same amount of electricity as the entire country of Vietnam, or the Netherlands.”

But the dam is facing its “biggest threat yet,” and causing pundits to ask whether its construction was “worth it.” As CNN noted, “with multiple gauging stations monitoring river flows in the Yangtze basin seeing record-high water levels this summer, some geologists say the limited role of the Three Gorges Dam in flood control has been laid bare.”

Beyond The Dam: Climate change is impacting the severity of monsoon season elsewhere in Asia. In South Asia, the death toll “has increased to more than 350 in recent weeks.” Villages throughout the subcontinent are submerged, and “tens of thousands” are displaced. As we reported earlier this summer, Bangladesh is facing particularly severe storms, and one-third of its land is still underwater. Afghanistan as well is facing flash floods caused by a torrential downpour, and at least 16 people have already died. And in Vietnam’s fertile Mekong Delta, climate change is rapidly displacing people who have farmed the region for generations.

As climate change continues to worsen, so too will the storms, causing intense deluges in Asia and beyond. In addition to mitigating activities that cause anthropogenic climate change, we must also work to protect those places who feel the brunt of environmental changes, represented here by the floods deeply impacting the continent.

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