Three Gorges Probe

Damming spree

Frontline (The Hindu)
January 28, 1999

The Tiger Leaping Gorge dam has been listed as one of the country’s major infrastructure projects for the 11th five-year plan period (2006-2010). Although final approval is pending, there is a strong likelihood the project will go ahead.

[Article excerpt] … According to Yu Xiaogang, founder of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Green Watershed and winner of the Goldman environmental award for 2006, the formal announcement for the plan to construct a dam [at Tiger Leaping Gorge] was made in 2003. The project, which according to local officials will have the capacity to generate 20 million kilowatts of power, is a joint venture between the provincial government of Yunnan and a subsidiary of the China Huaneng Group – one of the largest state-owned enterprises in the power sector.

Pre-project planning and activity, including geological surveys and the measuring of the homes and land of those who will be relocated, has been going on for the past few years. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) and a social impact assessment (SIA), mandatory under law for undertaking any large hydroelectric project, are currently being carried out.

The essential problem, Yu points out, is that this is being done in total secrecy. The SIA is supposed to involve the participation of people who will be affected by the dam. In reality, however, none of the farmers who will be forced to move out has been given any information regarding compensation or the scheduling for the dam. … The Tiger Leaping Gorge dam has in fact been listed as one of the country’s major infrastructure projects for the 11th five-year plan period (2006-2010).

Although final approval is pending, according to Yu, this means there is a very strong likelihood that the project will go ahead. … "We are not ideologically opposed to dams," says Ma Jun, author of the influential book China’s Water Crisis. "What we are asking for is a due process to be followed whenever a big dam is proposed."

… According to Ma, the preference for big dams in China is explained by the fact that they are not subject to the democratic constraints and environmental concerns that make approval procedures for large hydroelectric projects an arduous affair in other countries. He adds that since local officials are assessed on the basis of their achievements in providing hard infrastructure, they tend to be particularly enthusiastic about potential large dam projects.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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