Major Yangtze Tributary Drying Up

Independent Online (South Africa)
Saturday, April 23, 2005

Beijing - A series of dams and hydro projects in southwestern China's
Sichuan province have caused one of the upper Yangtze River's largest
tributaries to run dry in places, a Canadian-based environmental watchdog
said Saturday.

Local residents and water experts are concerned that the 735-kilometre Min
could become permanently altered by dams built on its upper reaches
which also threaten one of the world's oldest irrigation systems downstream,
Probe International said.

Below the nearly-completed Zipingpu dam, Sichuan's largest water control
project, "the Min River reduces to a thin stream that leaves most of its
waterbed uncovered," the group, citing online press reports from the region,

Further upstream in the Nanxin Town of Mou County, "the Min has completely
disappeared and the exposed riverbed almost resembles a desert strewn with
huge rocks and pebbles," it added.

Water experts in Sichuan province say hydro development on the upper Min
is responsible and that operators regulate their dams independently of
one another without paying attention to the river's water levels.

As many as 15 dams have either been built or are under construction along a
200-kilometre valley following from Sichaun's ancient city of Songpan to the
famous Dujiangyan Irrigation System, a water conservancy project built
during China's Warring States Period (475-221 BC), it added.

"The situation could jeopardise the Dujiangyan downstream which functions as
a comprehensive water web, providing cities and villages along the river
with water for domestic use and irrigation for millions of hectares of
farmland, as well as power for electricity generation," it said.