Chinese experts have dismissed rumors hyped by some Western media that the Three Gorges Dam, the world's biggest hydropower project, is at risk of collapse, noting the dam is intact and has spare capacity to hold the current inflows of water after southern parts of China experienced heavy rainfall and the Three Gorges reservoir's water level exceeded the flood control line.
Photo taken on June 8, 2020 shows the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, central China's Hubei Province. The water level of the Three Gorges reservoir dropped to 144.99 meters as of Monday afternoon, two days ahead of schedule, in a bid to make room to contain water from potential seasonal flooding. (Photo: Xinhua)
Since China entered the flood season in June, southern and eastern regions of the country have experienced heavy and extensive rainfall. Floods have affected more than 2 million people and caused economic losses of billions of yuan.
The water level in China's massive Three Gorges Reservoir reached 147 meters on Saturday, two meters above the flood warning line. Meanwhile, the inflow increased to 26,500 cubic meters per second from 20,500 cubic meters per second on the previous day.
The alarming water level gave rise to rumors that the dam is under structural strain and nearby residents should evacuate. Some Western media hyped claims that the dam is at risk of collapse, which was not new in their discredit of the project.
Guo Xun, a research fellow at the Institute of Engineering Mechanics at the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing, refuted the rumors and speculation, saying that the dam is capable of holding far larger inflows than it is seeing now.
The dam is designed to meet "once-in-a-millennium" water level at 175 meters or flow up to 70,000 cubic meters per second. Currently, the 147-meter water level and 26,500 cubic meters per second levels are absolutely safe for the dam to bear, Guo told the Global Times on Monday.
Guo noted that the two-meter excess indicates that water in the reservoir needs to be discharged to balance outflow and inflow to prevent the water level from continuing to mount, a common practice in rain seasons. But the water is not a challenge to the reservoir, Guo said.
Speculation that the dam is an impending disaster have long circulated online both at home and abroad.
In July 2019, a satellite image of Google Maps appeared to show that the Three Gorges Dam was distorted, sparking concerns that it is at the edge of breaking.
The operator of the dam, the China Three Gorges Corp (CTGC), said in a statement then that monitoring data showed the dam was in normal working condition and the project was safe and reliable. Minor deformation happens all the time and it will not affect the dam's safety as long as it's within an elastic range, analysts explained then.
Guo said that the dam is equipped with a multi-channel "health monitoring system" that will issue an alert when there is an abnormity such as deformation, long before the change is visible.