Special report: Reconstruction After Earthquake
By Xinhua Writer Zhou Xiaozheng
DUJIANGYAN, Sichuan Province, June 22 (Xinhua) --
Despite damages to a key part of it incurred by the devastating May 12
8.0-magnitude earthquake, Dujiangyan, the 2,200-year-old water conservancy
project near Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, is still
functioning well to protect millions ofquake survivors from the threat of summer
"The earthquake caused damages to the fish mouth part
of Dujiangyan, but after necessary consolidation efforts, we are sure that the
project will function as perfectly as before in water diversion and flood
control," a local water conservancy official told Xinhua on Sunday.
Meng Kunjian, head of the Dujiangyan monitoring
station under the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Monitoring and Survey
Bureau, said that after the earthquake, the local authorities had taken
immediate action to cement the cracks on the fish mouth, a sloping dyke that
protrudes into the Minjiang River that flows across the Chengdu Plain.
The fish mouth divides the broad Minjiang River into
Neijiang (Inner Course) and Waijiang (Outer Course). Only water that flows into
the Inner Course could reach Chengdu and its surrounding plains, while excess
flood water will be diverted into the Outer Course and denied access to the
affluent and densely-populated plain area.
The simple yet effective design earned Li Bing, the
local governor of Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), the fame of "ancient water
conservancy genius", and earned the project a place on the United Nations world
cultural heritage list.
The May 12 earthquake, with Wenchuan, some 90 miles
to the northwest of Chengdu, as its epicenter, has so far claimed nearly 70,000
lives and displaced several million people. In the worst hit regions, including
Dujiangyan City some 40 miles from Chengdu, most quake survivors have to live in
tents or makeshift board houses as the clearance of huge piles of rubble and
debris is expected to take at least a few months.
"Having endured the tremor and the ensuing secondary
geological disasters such as landslides and mud-rock flow, many quake survivors
now face the threat of possible summer flooding," a source with the Sichuan
Provincial Earthquake Relief Headquarters told Xinhua.
The high water season for the Minjiang River usually
begins in May and ends in October, while the main flood season lasts from mid
June to mid September.
At 2 p.m. sharp Sunday, the 50-year-old Meng Kunjian
called his boss at the provincial bureau to report the latest water level at the
Dujiangyan section of the Minjiang River.
"The elevation of the river surface at 1400 hours was
732.52 meters," Meng reported. According to his monitoring records, the water
level was at 732.53 meters by 8 a.m. Sunday and 732.54 meters by 2 p.m.
"The water level these days remains quite stable, and
is almost the same as that in 2007, when no major flooding occurred," said Meng,
adding that the water level forecast by the provincial bureau is "between medium
and high levels".
However, he said that the earthquake made a big
difference this year: the Zipingba Reservoir on the upper reaches of Minjiang
also suffered certain damages, and had to stop water storage for dam checking
"These days there is not much rainfall on the upper
reaches, thus keeping the water level comparatively low," said Meng. "But if
heavy rainfall occurs before the Zipingba dam resumes function, the risk of
major flooding is quite high."
Meng's station, with three staff including himself,
was ordered by both the provincial bureau and the State Headquarters for Flood
Prevention and Drought Relief to "be on high alert" and keep a close watch on
any major changes of the Minjiang water level.
Currently the station submits reports four times a
day, once every six hours. If the water level further rises, the interval will
be shortened to 3 hours. "When signs of major flooding show, we must make
non-stop reporting around the clock," said Meng.
According to the veteran water watcher who had served
in the same station for three decades, a timely early warning could give Chengdu
and its adjacent areas 7 to 8 hours for emergency evacuation.
Though highly vigilant, Meng said he was quite
confident in the ancient project's capacity to handle general floods.
"Isn't it amazing that it has been working so well
for more than two millenniums?" asked Meng, pointing to the direction of the
fish mouth with his bandaged right hand, which was wounded in the tremor. "It
has such a great design that ever since its completion, the following
generations could only maintain or fortify it, but not improve it."
His confidence was shared by many others in the
In a tent set up in the center of Juyuan Town,
Dujiangyan City, a family of 8, including a one-year-old baby, were enjoying
their lunch Sunday while completely ignoring the swelling Zouma River, a
tributary of Minjiang, that flows across just 30 meters away.
"It's weekend, so I cooked six dishes today to give
us a small treat," said the smiling housewife, in her 30s.
"The water is rising these days, and we have been cautioned against possible flooding by the government," she said. "We have checked out the routes from our tent to nearby safe, high places, just in case of emergency."
But no one at the table said they actually felt worried. "We have lived here for many years, and the river is always well-tamed by the ancient project, all the way through till it reaches Chengdu," the woman explained. "I don't think this time floodwater would be able to breach Dujiangyan."