Three Gorges Probe

More media coverage on the Chinese government’s decision to halt hydro power development on the Yangtze

(June 22, 2009) Probe International recently published a translated version of a letter and photos issued by citizens groups in response to the Chines government’s decision to halt hydro power development on the upper Yangtze. For further reading, we’re publishing two translated news stories about the letter.

China’s environmental regulatory blitz stops Huadian and Huaneng dam projects
National Business Daily (Meiri jingji xinwen)
June 12, 2009
Translation by Three Gorges Probe
Posted June 22

Wang Yongchen, one of China’s foremost environmentalists, believes the environment ministry’s recent suspension of two major hydro projects on the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) warrants special attention. He says we should continue to watch the government to see how the order will be implemented and with what results.

China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) (formerly the State Environment Protection Agency) has ordered a halt to dam projects in the past, but power companies resumed work soon afterwards without eliciting a serious reprimand from the government.

According to Wang Yongchen, the two suspended dam projects in Lijiang county, Yunnan, are located in a seismically-active area and have not undergone an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Wang Yongchen was recently invited by the ministry to attend an EIA hearing on the Ahai hydro project, one of eight dams planned or under construction in the middle Jinsha valley.

A long way to go to protect the Jinsha River

New Beijing News (Xinjing bao)
June 12, 2009
Translated by Three Gorges Probe
Posted June 22

Liu Jianxiang, a leading Chinese environmentalist and journalist, welcomes the central government’s decision to stop the illegal construction of hydro projects on the Jinsha River – a decision that he says was the result of collaboration with government, local residents affected by the proposed dams, environmentalists and media.

“But we still have a long way to go in regulating the construction of hydropower development,”  he says. “Not all hydro dam projects have been suspended in the middle Jinsha.”

The Jinanqiao project, one of eight dams planned for the middle Jinsha, broke ground in 2004 without approval from the central government. Once the Chinese media started reporting on the dam’s construction, government officials began an investigation—but it went ahead anyways, and today is ready to generate electricity.

Last April, Liu Jianxiang and a group of citizens, including NGOs, journalists, local entrepreneurs and farmers organized a tour to investigate the middle Jinsha.

“We discovered several hydropower stations being constructed illegally,” he says. “At the Liyuan dam site we found waste produced by construction activities discharging into the river without treatment, and the river water seriously polluted.

“We also discovered a large area of forest destroyed by road-building,” he says.

“The problem [with Ludila and Longkaikou dams] is the same as at what happened at Jinanqiao,” says Liu Jianxiang. “Power companies are trying to force the central government to approve their planned hydro dams, by ignoring laws and regulations and taking a ‘the rice is cooked – what is done cannot be undone,’ approach.”

Although plans to build a cascade of dams on the middle Jinsha have not been approved—and the debate over the first dam in the cascade at Tiger Leaping Gorge continues—power companies have started building projects anyways. One-by-one, all along the river, the dams are being constructed without approval in order to force the central government to eventually approve the entire cascade of dams—including the project at Tiger Leaping Gorge.

“It’s great that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has suspended approval of hydro dams in the middle Jinsha,” Liu Jianxiang says. “But it seems more difficult to stop the power companies and protect China’s mother river now that they’ve started building hydro dams without approval.”

Probe International, June 22, 2009

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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