China's Dams

Nu River dam plans to be scaled back

Kelly Haggart

October 26, 2006

China’s minister of water resources has poured cold water on the plan to build 13 dams on the Nu River in the southwest of the country, calling the proposal a form of “predatory development.”

In a speech Tuesday [Oct. 24] at the University of Hong Kong, Wang Shucheng indicated high-level disapproval of the plan to build a string of large dams on the Nu as it flows through the Three Parallel Rivers National Park in Yunnan province.

Mr. Wang said concerns related to the park — parts of which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003 — as well as “downstream national interests,” made it impossible to continue with the original plan.

China shares the Nu River with Burma and Thailand, where it is known as the Thanlwin (in Burmese) or the Salween (in English).

However, in his speech — covered by several Hong Kong newspapers, including Ming Pao and Hong Kong Commercial Daily— Mr. Wang also said that maintaining the status quo on Southeast Asia’s last major free-flowing river is not an option.

Local governments are keen to exploit the Nu River’s hydropower potential as soon as possible, Mr. Wang said, and he suggested that “one or two uncontroversial dams” will be built in the first instance.

The water minister also dismissed the idea of diverting water from the upstream Brahmaputra (Yaluzangbu) in Tibet to the Yellow River, a proposal that has caused alarm in downstream India and Bangladesh.

Mr. Wang called the plan “unnecessary, not feasible and unscientific.”

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