China's Dams

More dams planned to soak up Three Gorges construction army

Kelly Haggart
May 9, 2003

The Three Gorges Corp. is planning to build four more dams in the Yangtze Valley to help absorb the huge labour force that was assembled for Three Gorges and will soon be idle, a Chinese newspaper says.

The corporation building the Three Gorges dam has a “hidden agenda”
in pursuing an ambitious expansion program that is to include the
construction of four more megadams in the Yangtze Valley, a Chinese
newspaper says.

The Guangzhou-based 21st Century Economic Report (Ershiyi shiji
jingji baodao) says the planned dam-building spree on the Jinsha River,
as the Yangtze is called upstream of Chongqing, will help to absorb the
huge construction army that was assembled for the Three Gorges project
and will soon be idle.

“This employment issue has become especially pressing as the bulk of
the construction work on Three Gorges approaches an end,” reporter Luo
Lie writes. “This is why officials in charge of the Three Gorges
project have shifted the corporation away from its single-project focus
toward a new and broader orientation as a state-authorized investment
vehicle.

“The reorientation allows the new corporation to do more than just
build dams. It can now engage in other financial investments, tourist
development and construction activities beyond the Three Gorges area.
Its first foray in this regard will be the development of hydropower on
the Jinsha River.”

Patricia Adams, an economist and executive director of Probe
International (which publishes Three Gorges Probe), warns that
investors should be wary of involvement in these proposed new ventures.
“In essence, this corporation will be an employment agency carrying out
government-dictated functions, rather than operating as a financially
viable power company making prudent business decisions,” she said.

The central government has decided not to fund any more dams after
Three Gorges, forcing the builders of the world’s biggest dam to find
ways to raise money not only to complete its current megaproject, but
also to keep itself in business afterward – and to keep thousands of
construction workers from joining the burgeoning ranks of the
unemployed in China.

In overhauling its state-controlled power system, China has
separated the generation and the distribution of electricity. The
monolithic State Power Corp. was broken up late last year into five
regional generating companies and two grid corporations. In addition to
the goal of keeping its labour force employed, the expansion ambitions
of the China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Development Corp. are fuelled
by a desire to compete with these five new regional power-generating
companies, all of which have more hydropower installation capacity than
it does.

The Three Gorges Corp. created a subsidiary last year – the China
Yangtze Power Corp. – through which it plans to raise up to five
billion yuan RMB (more than US$600 million) on the domestic stock
market by the end of this year. Funds raised through the share listing
will help purchase the 26 hydropower generators for the Three Gorges
dam, and also help finance the corporation’s development dreams in the
upper reaches of the Yangtze.

In its Feb. 27 article, 21st Century Economic Report estimates that
the four dams the corporation plans to build on the Jinsha River
together will cost twice as much as Three Gorges. According to official
figures, the cost of building the Three Gorges dam will amount to 180
billion yuan RMB (around US$22 billion), though unofficial estimates
put the total much higher.

Two of the Jinsha dams – Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba – could come on
stream in 2014 and be completed in 2017, Three Gorges Corp. general
manager Lu Youmei has said, adding that no targets have yet been set
for the two other dams, Wudongde and Baihetan.

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