China has recently seen several major disasters. Since May 8, 2022, this country has been hit by heavy rainfall and flooding, damaging infrastructure in different areas.

Recent incident in Hunan and no-warning discharged floods in the south 

Netizens recently got angry because the government discharged floods from dams without warning, disregarding the consequences.

As recorded in a video, flooding occurred in Liuzhou, Guilin, Guigang, and other areas of Guangxi. The street turned into a river, inundating vehicles, shops, and houses on the first floor. 

According to a YouTube video, floods in Jiangxi are severe; only a few roofs can be seen in a village, and many houses are underwater. It’s known as a once-in-a-century flood. 

According to the Chinese news outlet Xin Tang Ren, heavy rains continued in June in many southern regions of the mainland. They produce catastrophes such as floods and landslides.

The torrential rain suddenly fell in Yiwangxi Town, Taoyuan County, Changde City, in Hunan Province on June 2. Around 8 am on June 3, a landslide occurred in Yiwangxi Village, causing a house to collapse and three people to be missing.

On June 3, Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture in Hunan Province upgraded the emergency response to flood control from level three to level two. Earlier, the ancient city of Phoenix was flooded.

On the evening of June 3, some streets in Chengdu, Chongqing, were covered with water, as seen in a video. Vehicles were submerged in the water. Even in some apartments, people had to bail water out.

The catastrophic floods in 1998

Whenever there is a flooding catastrophe, people immediately recall China’s most terrible flooding that occurred in 1998.

According to Baidu, a Chinese search engine platform, the 1998 catastrophic flood was a major flood in the basins of the Yangtze River, Nenjiang River, Songhua River, and other rivers. As a result, 29 provinces, including autonomous regions and municipalities, were severely affected by floods, affecting lands from around 33 million to about 52 million acres. 

In addition, the affected population was 223 million people, 4,150 people died, 6.85 million houses were destroyed, and the direct economic loss stood at 24.8 billion dollars.

Britannica describes the Yangtze as the longest river in China and Asia and the 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 started to build the world’s largest dam called the Three Gorges Dam to block the mighty Yangtze River. The project was completed in 2006 and reached full capacity in 2012, although it faced some concerns. 

The implications for communities around the dam and along the banks of the Yangtze River were and still are far greater than expected. 

Who decided to floodgate the Three Gorges Dam that caused the 1998’s historic flood?

Chinese media outlet Xin Tang Ren said that the then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin, made all significant decisions regarding the Three Gorges Dam project. He needed something to make his mark after he took power in 1989.

According to Annie Luman Ren, author of China Story, Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, chief of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress at that time, built the Three Gorges Dam for their own political and economic gain. 

As reported by the Chinese National Committee on Large Dams (Chincold), Jiang’s first official tour as the new general secretary was to see the Three Gorges Dam’s project site. 

According to Sina News, the National People’s Congress passed the resolution on the project in 1992 despite many meetings held and negative opinions. Mao’s secretary, Li Rui wrote many letters to say the Three Gorges Dam couldn’t be built. Those letters can be found in Li Peng’s diary. 

The Washington Post has already reported in 1997 that The Three Gorges Dam project would form a reservoir 412 miles long and inundate an area seven times the size of the District of Columbia. The reservoir would bury 13 cities, 140 towns, 1,352 villages and about 650 factories. It would raise the water level by 577 feet, submerging hundreds of ancient archaeological sites and much of the base of the granite and limestone cliffs that line the gorges and were among China’s greatest tourist attractions.

According to Zhihu, Jiang Zemin called  Wen Jiabao, China’s then-commander-in-chief of the National Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, on July 22. They asked provinces and cities along the Yangtze River, particularly Wuhan, to prepare for the peak of the flood.

After Jiabao received a flood report on August 5, it was essential for central leaders to decide whether to distribute the flood. Flood distribution meant that 921 square kilometers of land would become a swamp, and more than 300,000 people would be relocated. It would also cause economic losses of 2.25 billion dollars.

Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, China’s former Premier, explained to Wen Jiabao that the central government had approval authority over flood distribution. It meant that the decision fell on Jiabao.  

The Chinese government issued an order to divert the flood as the water level almost peaked at 45 meters. A breach occurred in the Yangtze River City’s west section of the breakwater in Jiujiang, Jiangxi on August 7. 

Then, it rushed and bursted in other areas. The floodwaters were rising, and the situation had become out of control.

“One of the major justifications for the Three Gorges Dam was flood control, but less than 20 years after its completion, we have the highest flood water in recorded history … The fact is that it cannot prevent these severe events,” David Shankman, a geographer at the University of Alabama who studies Chinese flooding, told Reuters.

Huang Wanli, a Chinese hydrologist, had opposed the idea of the Three Gorges Dam since it was first proposed, warning that the engineering work would end up causing disaster. However, the CCP disgraced and imprisoned him.

The Three Gorges dam did not fulfill its objective of preventing floods and caused an environmental disaster forcing the relocation of more than a million citizens to build it. 

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