Many provinces have experienced significant floods as a result of torrential rain, high winds, and thunderstorms.
Severe rains hit Guangnan County in Yunnan Province, causing trees to topple and destroy electrical poles and guardrails on May 9, 2022. A resident in Liancheng Township, Guangnan, had to relocate because his floor was flooded.
In addition, Longmen County, Guangdong province, experienced severe rain on the evening of May 10, and all of the orange rainstorm alerts turned red. The flood control emergency response raised the alert level from 4 to 2 in an hour after the heavy rain, with level 1 representing the most severe.
As Beijing News reported, 10 places in Guangdong issued red warnings for heavy rain with over 100 millimeters of rain within 3 hours. Meanwhile, eight areas issued orange warnings for heavy rain, thunderstorms, and strong winds with 100 millimeters of rain within 3 hours.
According to Beijing News, all parts of Guangdong were immersed in turbid brown rainwater, and vehicles broke down due to the high level of stagnant water.
The possible factors causing floods in China
Heavy rain, climate change, and rapid urbanization are not the only factors contributing to increased flood risk in China. Man-made activities are also counted as significant factors. Specifically, some of the Chinese government’s activities have severely impacted the ecosystem, and have led to floods.
First, river destruction and large-scale river reclamation are activities that contribute to flooding.
Chinese media Da Ji Yuan reported that China launched the South-to-North Water Diversion Project in order to change the direction of water flow. The investment for the project was 500 billion yuan (about 74 billion dollars).
The project consists of three water diversion lines, including east, middle, and west, among which the middle line just passes through Zhengzhou, Henan. It transfers abundant water resources from the Jianghuai River Basin in China to North China and Northwest China.
According to Wang Weiluo, a water conservancy expert living in Germany, most rivers in China flow from West to East. Meanwhile, the main channel of the middle route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project flows from South to North.
Weiluo said that in order to prevent the two water flows from direct intersection, the Chinese government could only use forms of aqueducts or culverts. When crossing sections are built, they will invisibly squeeze the beds of these rivers, reducing the circulation capacity of these small rivers significantly. Therefore, it is easy to form floods.
Another factor comes from the Three Gorges Dam built on the Yangtze River.
Britannica describes Yangtze as the longest river in both China and Asia and third longest river in the world. Its length is 6,300 km. From Tibet’s Plateau to the East China Sea, the Yangtze River crosses or serves as a boundary for 10 provinces and regions.
The ancient Chinese had always lived in harmony with this river. In 1994, China built the world’s largest dam called the Three Gorges Dam to block the mighty Yangtze River.
According to the BBC, the Three Gorges Dam was once a dream of Mao Zedong. The project was completed in 2006.
However, the implications for communities around the dam and along the banks of the Yangtze River are far greater than expected.
The dam’s initial construction resulted in the displacement of around 1.3 million people as well as the destruction of natural features and numerous rare architectural and archaeological sites.
Moreover, the construction is said to increase rapidly and cause severe floods, earthquakes, the destruction of ecosystems and a host of other serious problems.
According to CNN, when the Chinese government made ways for the massive reservoir of the dam, residents’ ancestral homes were demolished, communities were dismantled, and farmlands were flooded.
CNN reported that the dam displaced more people than the previous three largest Chinese dams combined. The reservoir submerged two cities, 114 towns, and 1,680 villages along the river’s banks.
Deforestation in China is the third factor that leads to severe flooding.
According to Business Insider, China carried out the largest mountain relocation project in history, with the leveling of 700 mountains near the city of Lanzhou for urban development. The investment for this project was 2.2 billion pounds (around 2.7 billion dollars).
As Business Insider reported, the Chinese government razed 130,000 hectares (500 square miles) of hills and mountains to make way to build a new metropolis.
In addition to Lanzhou’s case, the Chinese government’s aggression has opened the door for the state-owned companies to unprecedentedly deforest in Tibet.
Tibet’s forest cover decreased by 46% between 1950 and 1985.
Massive deforestation in some parts of Tibet caused the 1998 Yangtze River flood and the 2010 Drukchu flood.
The Final Report of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Group (UNDAC), published in September 1998, highlighted logging in the Yangtze River basin, particularly in the Tibet region, as a major source of environmental pollution.
According to the report, the floods in 1998 claimed 3 million lives, affecting 223 million people, which accounted for 20% of the Chinese population. In addition, the floods affected countless homes and made 15 million farmers lose their crops.
The estimated economic loss was around 20 billion dollars.
Heavy rains, snowmelt accumulation on the Tibetan plateau, and horrible deforestation in the East Tibet river’s headwaters were the main causes of this disaster.
The Drukchu flood incident occurred on August 8, 2010. Heavy rains caused landslides and mudflows in the Druchu area of Amdo province in northeastern Tibet. The disaster claimed a total of 337 lives, and over 1,000 people went missing.
Tibet media outlet Phayul cited data from Xinhua Net that mud and rock filled the area, with more than 2 million cubic meters of mud and rock flowing down the valley. The disaster severely damaged the area’s power, water, and telecommunications systems. More than 300 houses were destroyed and another 700 were damaged by the mud.
According to the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibetans believed the main culprit was the excessive logging along the river basin by local authorities.
In addition, the Journal of Geophysical Research in 2014 echoed the same conclusion. As mentioned in the research, extreme precipitation, the Wenchuan earthquake of May 2008, and the severe loss of vegetation cover in the Drukchu region were main factors.
The Chinese government not only destroyed their own ecosystem but also other nations’. Activities such as exploiting resources, and destroying river systems and forests reflect the Chinese government’s attitude towards nature.