China’s Three Gorges dam faces “urgent problems”, The Guardian reported, citing a government statement. The state council, the cabinet, said the dam had pressing geological, human and ecological problems, and acknowledged for the first time the negative impact the dam has had on downstream river transport and water supplies.
Although it contained few specifics, the Three Gorges assessment came amid increasing concerns about a severe drought on the middle stretches of the Yangtze River in central China. The drought has rendered nearly 1,400 reservoirs in Hubei province temporarily unusable, devastated farm fields and made drinking water scarce, The New York Times said, quoting Xinhua. A quarter of Hubei’s small reservoirs holds only “dead water”.
China has halted diesel shipments and restricted exports of refined oil products, Agence France-Presse reported, in an effort to ensure domestic supply and stabilise fuel costs amid surging inflation. The National Development and Reform Commission said exports of refined oil products would be “strictly controlled” and those of diesel temporarily stopped, except to Hong Kong and Macau.
One high-speed rail line in China has been ordered to stop running and construction of another has been halted, according to Agence France-Presse. The environmental protection ministry told a line in Shandong province linking Qingdao and Jinan to stop because it had not yet passed an environmental assessment, and halted construction of a line linking the northern cities of Tianjin and Qinhuangdao because its route had been changed without approval.
A total of 136 people living near a battery plant in Guangdong province have been found to have excessive lead levels in their blood – 59 of them with lead poisoning -- as of May 19, People’s Daily said. Operations were suspended at the Heyuan Sanwei plant in Heyuan City after the testing.
In Zhejiang province, eight government officials received administrative punishments over a lead-poisoning case in which 332 people were found to have excessive lead levels in their blood, Xinhua cited local authorities as saying. The Zhejiang Haijiu battery company, which makes lead-acid motorcycle batteries, reportedly disposed of metal improperly in Deqing county. All 273 battery factories in Zhejiang now face safety checks.
China announced its first seven national ocean parks, planned to coordinate ecological protection with sustainable use of oceanic resources, including coastal tourism, Xinhua said. Two of parks will be in Guangdong province, two in Shandong, and one each in Guangxi, Fujian and Jiangsu.
Use of a legal chemical that prompts plant growth may have contributed to overripe watermelons bursting in their fields in eastern China, Bloomberg News reported, citing Xinhua. More than 47 hectares of melons in Danyang, Jiangsu province, were ruined when the fruit burst open. The chemical forchlorfenuron may have been responsible.
Ming Ming, the world’s oldest panda, has died aged 34, The Guardian quoted Chinese media as saying. Captive pandas typically live for about 22 years.
Prepared in cooperation with PACE
Climatic changes in China, the Middle East and Africa could see more severe outbreaks of locusts devastating food crops