By SILVI WRITER
The terrible flood in east China’s Shandong province, which has wreaked havoc in Shouguang – a small city known as the country’s largest vegetable production base, has been officially termed a natural calamity caused by unprecedented incessant rain trigged by three typhoons within one month.
But Chinese media outlets have pointed out underlying the disaster were multiple governance failures too, arguing that man-made factor, a last-minute discharge of floodwaters from upstream reservoirs, have turned an extreme weather event into a social catastrophe.
The flood, which has led more than 20 dead or missing, caused 200,000 greenhouses damaged and nearly 10,000 houses collapsed, raised concerns that prices of food staples may spike, said Caixin.
Shouguang provides the Chinese capital of Beijing with roughly 70 percent of its vegetable consumption. It provides vegetables to many other provinces and municipal cities as well.
Photos and video clips circulating online show many agricultural fields and greenhouses in towns and villages in Shouguang drowning in water and the bodies of dead pigs lying on the ground after the floods receded.
The waters inundated scores of towns and villages, submerging some buildings under several feet of mud, smothering life.
This was the most severe flood crest Shouguang has experienced since 1974, said the government of the city of Weifang, which governs Shouguang.
Half a million residents in Shouguang suffered from the floods, and 60,000 were relocated, Global Times reported.
The newspaper quoted a 60-year-old grape planter surnamed Huang, who said his grape plantation was damaged.
“I don’t know how it will be compensated,” he said.
Devastation in Shouguang, which has a population of 1.14 million, was exacerbated by the discharge of millions of tons of water from three large upstream reservoirs on the Mi River, a move authorities ordered to prevent breaches, Caixin said.
Nearly 21 million cubic tons of water was discharged from the reservoirs from Aug 13 to 19, according to Zhou Shouzong, head of Weifang Water Conservancy Bureau.
To prevent the dams from collapsing and threatening the safety of the nearly 1 million people living in the basin, the city decided to increase the amount of water discharge from the three reservoirs, China Daily said.
Local residents and netizens questioned why there was no decision on earlier discharge of enough water, reckoning the local authority wanted to keep large amount of water to sell in future for more profit.
Quoted by The Paper, water conservation authority in Weifang said that they did not order earlier discharges because they hadn’t expected so much rain and wanted to preserve as much water as possible to tackle a possible drought later in the year.
Making the flood worse was a failure to crack down on an illicit housing development on a riverbed that had been dry for years, and garbage that had been dumped in local waterways, according to the Beijing News.