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Three Gorges increases release to ease drought

Updated: 2011-05-20 19:34


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BEIJING - China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, began to increase its water release on Friday to ease severe drought plaguing downstream rice-growing areas.

From May 20 to 24, the dam will accelerate its discharge rate to 10,000 cubic meters per second, about 3,000 cubic meters faster than its inflow rate, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH) said in a statement.

The rate will be increased to 11,000 to 12,000 cubic meters per second between May 25 and June 10.

The dam, whose main body is located in the town of Sandouping in Hubei province, has discharged 17 billion cubic meters of water to areas downstream since the beginning of this year.

Consequently, water levels in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest river, have risen by 0.63 meters and 2.12 meters, respectively, from record lows.

Water release has lifted the water levels at key sections of the Yangtze River, which helped ensure water supplies in those areas, SFDH said.

During the January-April period, the Yangtze River basin received 40 percent less rainfall than the past 50-year average.

Dwindling water levels in rivers have affected agricultural irrigation capabilities and water supplies for daily living, seriously affecting some parts of Hubei and Hunan provinces.

The meteorology authority said on Friday that the downstream of the river would experience rain from Friday to next Tuesday, and parts of south China would see torrential rain, which would relieve the drought in those areas.

Experts advised local authorities to step up irrigation and consolidate the dike.

The Three Gorges Project consists of a dam, a five-tier ship dock and 26 hydropower turbo-generators. The project generates electricity, controls flooding by providing storage space and adjusts shipping capacity.

The project was launched in 1993 with a budget of about $22.5 billion.


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