Ancient Chinese irrigation system survives quake
Amazing considering the ongoing earthquake damage to modern irrigation systems in China. When it ain't broke...
From the hillside platform, the workings of the ingenious irrigation project that is now a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site are clearly visible.
Built from 256 BC, the system involved diverting the Minjiang River's flow using man-made islands built on bamboo frames that allowed water and fish to flow freely underneath.
UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organisation, says the system "controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland" of the plains.
It is "a major landmark in the development of water management and technology and is still discharging its functions perfectly."
The irrigation system is at the foot of mountains on the edge of Dujiangyan, about 50 kilometres (32 miles) from the epicentre of the May 12 quake which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale and killed more than 40,000 people.
Yet despite its close proximity to the quake, the system suffered only minor damage and was not compromised, according to the government.
At the same time, several dams were damaged by the earthquake and are now under constant watch for signs of collapse amid concerns they may not be able to withstand strong aftershocks or flooding.
"The earthquake this time has caused damage at various levels to reservoirs and dams," Gu Junyaun, the chief engineer at the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said this week.
"The irrigation system is reliable and solid," said He Quyun, 66, a woman who lives above the project in hills which are prone to rock falls since the quake.
"The skills of the ancient people, the architect, were so high," said another area resident, a former village Communist Party secretary who declined to give his name.
The contrasting fates of the ancient irrigation system and the modern dams offer a cautionary tale for China as it continues its love affair with trying to tame its vast rivers.
Hundreds of dams have been built, or are being constructed, across the country, and environmentalists have repeatedly warned of the folly of doing so in quake-prone areas such as Sichuan.
But no one has such fears about the Dujiangyan irrigation project.