China’s Three Gorges Dam Could Collapse, Expert Warns
ChinaJuliet Song

As pouring rain continues to soak central and southern China, an expert warns that the Three Gorges Dam, one of the world’s largest dams, is at risk of collapse.

The Three Gorges Dam is built above the Yangtze River and situated in China’s Hubei province.

A branch of China’s Yangtze River is bracing for the largest flood ever in 80 years. Authorities have evacuated 40,000 locals, issuing a yellow alert for rainstorms.

On Saturday, June 20, water inside the Three Gorges Dam reservoir rose 6 feet above the warning level.

Chinese authorities insist that the dam is structurally sound, but a famed hydrologist, Wang Weiluo, said the dam is of poor quality, and can’t provide flood protection.

Construction of the dam began in 1994 and was completed in 2006.

Three Gorges Dam
Workers watch as water is released from the Three Gorges Dam, a gigantic hydropower project on the Yangtze river, in Yichang, central China’s Hubei province, on July 24, 2012, after heavy downpours in the upper reaches of the dam caused the highest flood peak of the year. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Wang said after a serious flood in 1998, China’s then-premier hired Western experts to assess the quality control of the build. The experts said the steel bar welding of the dam didn’t meet with standards.

Chinese workers were unhappy and said the Western expert’s criticism was racial discrimination. But the criticism came too late.

“The steel bar welding and cement pouring of the gorge’s left bank is all complete. They can’t redo it,” Wang said.

The Three Gorges Dam didn’t have a separate body for quality inspection. The team that designed and constructed the dam did it themselves.

When the dam first began operations, China’s state media made grand claims that the dam can withhold the worst flood in 10,000 years. Years later they changed this claim to 1,000 years, and a year later revised to 100 years, suggesting a decline of confidence in the dam.

In 2010, state media quoted Chinese officials stressing that people can’t put all their hopes of flood control on the Three Gorges Dam.

Three Gorges Dam
Water rush out of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in Yichang of Hubei Province, China, on May 13, 2006. (China Photos/Getty Images)

Wang said before that the dam has moved due to its flawed design.

State experts said the dam had moved a few millimeters, but within the normal safety range.

Wang wrote in a 2019 article that the dam is composed of dozens of independent concrete blocks.

“These blocks are not connected to the bedrock below, they’re just sitting on top it,” wrote Wang.

He said if the dam collapses, it will impact over 400-million people living downstream.

The Yangtze River’s mid to lower reaches are densely populated, and include big cities like Shanghai and Wuhan.

China’s state media maintains that the dam is not at risk of collapse, calling it “rumors hyped by some Western media.”