BEIJING - China's dam safety is under heavy pressure ahead of flood season as more rain and extreme weather are expected this year, the Ministry of Water Resources warned Tuesday.
China has the world's largest number of reservoirs, but "extreme weather may pose a big threat to dam safety," the Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said in a video conference Tuesday.
"Special purpose inspections on dams also show many of them are not in good condition. Dam safety is in a severe situation," he added.
According to Chen, more rain is expected to hit central China, as well as Yangtze River and Huaihe River areas during the flood season. In addition, more torrential rain, mountain torrents and typhoons are likely to happen this year as a result of global climate change.
From 1999 to 2008, a total of 59 dams had been breached nationwide, 30 of which were caused by torrential rain and another 20 were caused by quality defects.
Chen said 37,000 reservoirs, or more than 40 percent of the country's total, had potential dangers, of which 3,642 dams were undergoing strengthening, and another 7,611 needed to be reinforced immediately.
A lack of early warning systems is another threat to dam safety. For instance, 19 percent of key medium-sized reservoirs and 25 percent of normal medium-sized reservoirs had not been equipped with rain water monitor systems, Chen said.
The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters urged planning for emergencies, preparing more materials for dam reinforcement and storing less water in reservoirs, to ensure dam safety.
In 2008, only one small dam was breached and one hydropower plant reported an accident, the lowest number since 1990s. A total of 3,295 dams and hydropower plants were damaged during the May 12 earthquake, but none was breached last year, Chen said.