According to the Chinese state media, more than 5,400 people have been evacuated in China’s central province of Hubei due to Eping dam damage.

The Eping hydroelectric power plant dam in Zhuxi county has partially collapsed due to heavy rains, according to state media, with specialists working to restore the facility.

The authorities have not declared an emergency over the incident.

There have been no reports yet about possible victims.

China has thousands of hydropower projects it doesn’t want

Ever since Chairman Mao Zedong exhorted workers in the 1950s to “conquer nature,” China has been throwing up dams large and small at a prolific rate to generate power, tame flooding and provide irrigation for fields and drinking water for cities. The long-term effects of that often chaotic policy are now coming home to roost.

Many dams in the country are too small to generate meaningful amounts of power. Others have simply become redundant as their rivers ran dry, their reservoirs silted up or they were superseded by dams built upstream.

More than 80 water conservancy projects were built in the Beijing region alone, according to Chinese local media. By the 2010s, the river was running dry an average of 316 days a year.

Many old dams pose serious safety threats, especially during summer floods. According to China’s Ministry of Water Resource, 3,515 reservoirs burst between 1951 and 2011. They include the infamous Banqiao dam in Henan province which, along with another 61 dams, broke after six hours of torrential ran in August 1975, killing 240,000 people.

Dams still fail in China. Earlier this year, two in Inner Mongolia gave way in heavy rain. In floods that killed more than 300 people in Henan this summer, the army warned that the Yihelan dam “could collapse at any time.”

Large dams and their reservoirs are also increasingly criticised for environmental damage. They alter the flow of rivers, submerge habitats and disrupt the migration and spawning of fish.

Since the mighty Three Gorges Dam was completed on the Yangtze in 2006 after two decades of construction, several lakes downstream that absorbed the river’s overflow, have shrunk dramatically or disappeared.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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