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Government Vows To Repair "time bomb" Reservoirs

CHANGSHA, April 20 (Xinhua) -- A senior government official has described thousands of China's reservoirs as "time bombs" that threaten the lives and property of people living downstream.

Jiao Yong, Deputy Minister of Water Resources, said all structurally unsound large, medium-sized and major small reservoirs nationwide would be repaired within three years.

The government would ensure the reinforcement and safety of the reservoirs, but it was a huge task, said Jiao. "The problematic reservoirs are like time bombs, seriously threatening the lives and property of people living downstream," Jiao told a national meeting on the repair of dangerous reservoirs.

China had more than 85,000 reservoirs, of which 30,000 had serious problems, including 200 large and 1,600 medium-sized reservoirs. Jiao said his ministry has twice conducted a nationwide round of repairs since 1998.

The number of dangerous reservoirs reinforced in the first round was unknown, but Jiao said the construction work involved was equivalent to building 540 new medium-sized reservoirs each with a capacity of 50 million cubic meters.

A direct benefit from the first round was an extra 1.33 million hectares of irrigated farmland.

In the meantime, 160 million people, alongside 9.3 million ha of farmland downstream the reservoirs that were reinforced in the first round are well protected.

The second round began in 2004 and by late last year, 500 reservoirs had been reinforced at a cost of 9.2 billion yuan.

A recently completed inspection and appraisal by the same ministry shows that the rate of the structurally unsound large and medium-sized reservoirs has fallen from 42 percent and 41 percent in 1999 to 14 percent, and 25 percent at present, respectively.

Jiao said the government would spend five billion yuan each year to repair unsound and dangerous reservoirs.

On Thursday, 1,700 people had to be evacuated from four villages after a dam on the Xiaohaizi Reservoir in Gansu Province, northwest China, cracked, causing water to flood the surrounding area and destroying a highway bridge.

The reservoir, with a capacity of 3.5 million cubic meters, was initially built in 1958, and had undergone several renovation and expansion projects, the most recent from 2002 to 2004.

Downpours earlier in the week and the extra rainfall were blamed as a factor in the 15-meter-long crack in the 10-meter-high dam. Eighteen people, including 12 kindergartens, died in May 2004 when a cofferdam on the Dalongtan Reservoir on the Yangtze River, at Enshi City, Hubei Province, burst and flood waters swept away their minibus.

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