China's Dams

China’s rivers to be dammed for evermore

The Daily Telegraph (London)
March 12, 2002

‘Environmentalists call the Three Rivers project an assault on the last frontier of China’s wild countryside, in a debate that has broken new ground by being held largely in public.’


Bingzhongluo: High in the Himalayan foothills, the people the Chinese call Angry look down on the waters of the river that shares their name and ponder on the future.

“When the dam gets built, the water will come right up to there,” said Asetei, an 84-year-old farmer pointing up the terraced hillside. “There are testing teams who come to the river and they tell us this. They say it won’t happen for 10 years, though all we know is rumour.” A leaked Chinese government report last week cleared it to press ahead with the main parts of a plan to build a cascade of 13 dams and power stations down the gorges that line the Nu River, in the mountains where Burma, Tibet and the Chinese province of Yunnan meet.

They will join a series of similar projects on the rivers Nu, Lancang and Jinsha, that flow from the Tibetan plateau to provide livelihoods to hundreds of millions in China and South-East Asia.

The government sees the reservoirs and power stations as a “string of pearls” crossing one of China’s poorest regions, and a solution to the economy’s pressing need for electricity and water. At peak seasons, factories in the country’s booming cities are forced to close in rotation to prevent black-outs.

In the past five years, the startling growth of China’s economy has put pressure on both its water supplies – 90 per cent of the country’s cities are fed by contaminated rivers – and its energy resources.

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