China's Dams

Nu River: Fact box

April 25, 2006

Background information on the plans to dam the Nu River, one of only two major rivers in China unfragmented by dams.

Nu River background

As it wends its way through Yunnan province, the Nu forms part of
the Three Parallel Rivers National Park, where three mighty rivers Ð
the Yangtze, Lancang (Mekong) and Nu (Salween) Ð flow through steep
parallel gorges. It is a region of such rich biodiversity and
“outstanding universal value” that UNESCO declared it a world heritage
site in 2003.

Controversy has swirled around the proposal to dam the Nu River
since it was first revealed in 2003 that the China Huadian Corp. and
local power firms had been granted permission to build a cascade of 13
hydroelectric dams on the river. Reports suggest that a secret
environmental impact assessment has recommended going ahead initially
with the construction of four dams. It has also been reported that the
EIA will not be made public because of Chinese confidentiality laws
governing international rivers.

Beginning high on the Tibetan plateau, the Nu River passes through
southwest China before entering Burma, where it is known as the
Thanlwin (in Burmese) or the Salween (in English). The river forms
Burma’s border with Thailand for 120 kilometres, and eventually empties
into the Andaman Sea.

The Nu is one of only two major rivers in China that have not yet
been dammed. (The other undisturbed river is the Yaluzangbu in Tibet.)
Chinese scientists want the two rivers left alone so that future
studies can compare conditions in dammed and undammed rivers, but the
free-flowing status of the Nu/Salween is under threat from all three of
the countries it passes through.

Nu River: Fact box

Names
Gyalmo Ngulchu (Tibetan)
Nujiang [Nu River] (Chinese)
Thanlwin (Burmese)
Salween (English)

Length
2,800 kilometres
(2,018 km of which are in China)

Proposed dams
Songta, Bingzhongluo, Maji, Lumadeng, Fugong, Bijiang, Yabiluo, Lushui,
Liuku, Shitouzhai, Saige, Yansangshu, Guangpo

Timeline
June 2003 Yunnan
Huadian Nu River Hydropower Development Co. is formed in Kunming by the
China Huadian Corp., Yunnan Development Investment Co., Yunnan
Electricity Group’s Hydropower Construction Co. and Yunnan Nu River
Electricity Group
July 2003 Three Parallel Rivers National Park declared a UNESCO world heritage site
August 2003 National Reform and Development Commission approves the Nu River dam project
April 2004 Premier Wen Jiabao suspends the project, sending it back for more scientific study, Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao reports
January 2006 The
secret Nu River environmental impact assessment recommends going ahead
initially with four of the planned dams (Maji, Yabiluo, Liuku and
Saige), Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po reports
April 2006 Chinese activists report that signs of exploration activity near proposed Nu River dam sites were covered up
before a visit on April 7 by a UNESCO-IUCN inspection team. The
visitors were investigating the potential impacts of dam building in
the Three Parallel Rivers National Park

Categories: China's Dams

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