Monday, August 02, 2010

Garbage Island Threatens China's Three Gorges Dam

China seems to be a fountain of never ending environmental nightmares and the recent flooding rains have made a bad situation worse.

The latest is from the Three Gorges Dam, where weeks of flooding rains have washed all manner of debris into rivers that congealed into a huge mass of garbage.
Thousands of tons of garbage washed down by recent torrential rain are threatening to jam the locks of China's massive Three Gorges Dam, and is in places so thick people can stand on it, state media said on Monday.

Chen Lei, a senior official at the China Three Gorges Corporation, told the China Daily that more than 3,000 tons of trash was being collected at the dam every day, but there was still not enough manpower to clean it all up.

"The large amount of waste in the dam area could jam the miter gate of the Three Gorges Dam," Chen said, referring to the gates of the locks which allow shipping to pass through the Yangtze River.

The river is a crucial commercial artery for the upstream city of Chongqing and other areas in China's less-developed western interior provinces.

Pictures showed a huge swathe of the waters by the dam crammed full of debris, with cranes brought in to fish out a tangled mess, including shoes, bottles, branches and Styrofoam.

Some more than half a million square feet had been covered by trash washed down since the start of the rainy season in July, the report said. The trash is around two feet deep, and in some parts so compacted people can walk on it, the Hubei Daily added.

"Such a large amount of debris could damage the propellers and bottoms of passing boats," Chen said. "The decaying garbage could also harm the scenery and the water quality."
The Chinese government has struggled with trying to come up with an environmental cleanup plan to limit debris and garbage entering the rivers upstream from the dam, and the failure to protect the watershed means that the dam, the locks, and the hydroelectric facilities are threatened by the debris that could jam the navigation locks or the turbines that provide power to the region.

Meanwhile, heavy rains have washed all manner of chemicals into the various Chinese rivers, including the Songhua River, which was the scene of a serious benzene spill two years ago. Like that earlier spill, the current situation has meant that authorities have had to turn off the river water intakes for more than 4 million people lest people become sickened from the tainted water.

No comments: