BEIJING • In a drastic move, two of China's top hydropower plants have lowered capacity by as much as two-thirds, state media said yesterday, to ease pressure on the flood-swollen Yangtze River.
Days of heavy rainfall have pushed water levels in more than 60 rivers in southern China above warning levels, as the death toll rose to 56 and economic costs hit almost US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion). The floods have delayed grain on barges and damaged farms along the Yangtze River.
While the south is inundated, northern China is desperate for rain. A heat wave and drought-like conditions have badly affected crops and water levels.
The Three Gorges dam, the world's biggest power station, with an installed generation capacity of 22,500MW, has reduced capacity to 6GW from 18.12GW, while Gezhouba, 38km away, has halved capacity to 1.5GW from 2.9GW.
The two power stations in Hubei have stopped 26 generators because of flood pressure in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Asia's longest river, reported state-run Xinhua.
Hydroelectric power is China's second-largest electricity source after coal. The shutdowns have cut capacity by 13.52GW and led to a spike in coal export prices in Australia.
Hydropower schemes can shut during times of high rainfall to prevent flooding downstream or to protect plant turbines.
Hydropower is China's second-largest electricity source after coal. The shutdowns have cut capacity by 13.52GW and led to a spike in coal export prices in Australia.
The recent floods and mudslides have also left 22 people missing, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
More than 750,000ha of crops have been damaged and direct economic losses totalled more than 25.3 billion yuan (S$35 billion), it said.
The government said it had disbursed 700 million yuan in emergency aid to four flood-hit provinces - Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan and Guizhou.
Rain in the southern provinces is expected to ease in the coming days, but weather forecasters predict downpours will move to the south-western province of Sichuan.
High water levels on the Yangtze also slowed barges carrying grain from northern ports to the south, spurring a rise in freight rates and corn prices in some regions, analysts and corn buyers said.
The Yangtze River's large watershed also accounts for 60 per cent of the nation's freshwater fish output.
Mr Cao Delian, manager of the Dabeinong Changlin fish farm, estimated that he has lost about one-third of his carp because of the deluge.
"It is the biggest loss we have seen in at least 5 years," he told reporters.