China's Dams

Yunnan province plans to divert Yangtze to Kunming

Three Gorges Probe

October 10, 2007

The provincial government of Yunnan is promoting a US$6.5 billion scheme to divert water from the Yangtze River to a severely polluted lake in Kunming, nearly 500 kilometres away.

The province recently submitted the plan to the central government for approval, according to a September 12 report on the Cailong Zhongguo (Colourful Dragon China) web site.

If completed, water would be pumped from the proposed Longpan hydro reservoir on the Jinsha River (as the Yangtze is known in southwestern China) through a 478-kilometre canal to Dianchi Lake.

Officials say the scheme won’t harm the environment and is the only way to flush pollutants out of the lake, which is no longer fit for human consumption.

The Jinsha diversion project would supply an estimated 3.4 billion cubic metres of water annually to Kunming and other urban centers experiencing water shortages, such as Dali, Yuxi and Lijiang, Cailong Zhongguo reports.

While the province is publicly promoting the plan, independent sources in Yunnan say neither the diversion scheme nor the Longpan hydro project have yet been approved.

Chinese environmentalists want alternative options for cleaning up the polluted lake considered. They also warn that the Jinsha scheme and several other large diversions planned further downstream threaten the Yangtze river valley with further environmental degradation.

The Yunnan Jinsha Hydropower Company – backed by three of China’s ‘big five’ power companies, Huaneng, Huadian, and Datang ‚Äì wants to start building the Longpan hydro station in 2008.

The dam site is 60 kilometres upstream from the world-renowned Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Originally the company planned to build a dam at Tiger Leaping Gorge but it was shelved following criticism from environmental groups that it would ruin one of China’s “most magnificent natural phenomena.”

He Gong, head of the China Huadian Corporation, is quoted on the Yunnan Jinsha Hydropower Company’s web site saying that Longpan will leave Tiger Leaping Gorge “undisturbed.”

Longpan is one of eight dams planned for the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) which, if completed, would have a total installed capacity of 20,580 MW and an annual output of 88.3 billion kilowatt-hours. (For comparison, the Three Gorges dam is expected to
generate 68 billion kilowatt-hours annually if completed as planned.) While capital for the Longpan hydro dam is expected to come from China’s state banks, winning central government approval and financing for the Jinsha-Kunming diversion project could
prove more difficult. Water diverted to Kunming means less water available for other demands, such as power production at the Three Gorges dam or competing water supply schemes further downstream.

Beijing has its own multi-billion dollar project to pump water out of the Yangtze which, according to Guo Shuyan, head of the National People’s Congress finance committee, is about US$18 billion short for the project’s second phase.

Under the South-North transfer project, about 44.8 billion cubic metres [PDF] of water is to be diverted annually from the Yangtze in three places: at Yangzhou city in Jiangsu province (underway), at the Danjiangkou reservoir in Hubei province (underway), and from several rivers in Sichuan province (not yet approved).

The Colourful Dragon China web site is owned by the provincial newspaper, Kunming Ribao (Kunming Daily).

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