Devastating Floods Along China's Yangtze River Spark Fears About World's Biggest Dam

Some of the worst rainfall on record has punished China during flood season fueling new concerns the world's largest hydroelectric gravity dam is under stress.  

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reports at least 140 people have died in central and eastern China as floodwaters rise. In weeks, 28,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yangtze River region, with at least 33 rivers reaching record-high levels. 

The People's Daily newspaper said earlier this week that 1.5 million people have already evacuated from flood-prone regions. 

Vice Minister of Emergency Management Zheng Guoguan told reporters Monday some regions around the Yangtze river have recorded the highest rainfall in over a half-century. 

The country recently declared the second-highest emergency response level. Emergency teams have been dispatched to Jiangxi, a southeast Chinese province severely impacted by flooding.

Reuters notes high waters along the Yangtze and surrounding lakes "prove the Three Gorges Dam isn't doing what it was designed for." 

"One of the major justifications for the Three Gorges Dam was flood control, but less than 20 years after its completion, we have the highest floodwater in recorded history," said David Shankman, a geographer with the University of Alabama who concentrates on Chinese floods. "The fact is that it cannot prevent these severe events."

Fan Xiao, a Chinese geologist and significant critic of dam projects on the Yangtze, said dams are used for electricity generation and control, could "make flooding worse by altering the flow of sedimentation down the Yangtze." 

Shankman said the Three Gorges Dam has the ability to alleviate flooding in regular periods, but when extreme weather strikes, the dam is useless. 

"The Three Gorges Dam reservoir does not have the capacity to significantly affect the most severe floods," he said.

"Residents in the Yangtze River basin in recent weeks have expressed concerns over the ability of the massive dam to handle more heavy rain, even though authorities have been releasing floodwater from the structure," said Fox News. 

Chinese state media has rejected Western media "hype" stories about the dam collapsing.