Photo by Michael Cory via Flickr CC
Torrential rain in China has caused extreme flooding, affecting at least 134 million people in 28 provinces. But many more could be impacted due to another major issue caused by the rain. Massive islands of trash are threatening the Three Gorges Dam area, with some patches so thick people can actually walk on it. Nearly 3,000 tons of garbage is being collected daily from the dam, but it might prove to be too much for limited equipment and workers. According to China Daily, the amount of garbage in the river has been decreasing in the last few years, but the downpour brought loads of it washing into the Yangtze River, including everything from domestic garbage to plastic to tree branches. The mess started with a layer nearly two feet thick and covering about half a million square feet began to form at the front of the dam in July as the rainy season began. The recent rainstorms have caused much more junk to pile up.
"The large amount of waste in the dam area could jam the miter gate of the Three Gorges Dam," Chen Lei, director of the key water project department under the China Three Gorges Corporation, told China Daily. "Such a large amount of debris could damage the propellers and bottoms of passing boats," he said. "The decaying garbage could also harm the scenery and the water quality."
With over 150 million people living near the dam and upstream, many will be affected as only a handful of boats are able to help with clean up and most people are simply adding to the problem by dumping household garbage directly into the river. On a average year, the China Three Gorges Corporation spends around $1.48 million to clean up floating waste that gathers at the dam, the world's largest hydropower project that environmentalists expected for years to be a problem in terms of sewage and industrial pollution backing up, along with other ecosystem issues. It looks like this year could be much more expensive -- and much more problematic considering most efforts will not be focused on the imperiled dam but on the 9.61 million people who have been evacuated so far, the 875,000 homes have been destroyed, and 22 million acres (8.76 million hectares) of crops ruined.
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