(March 4, 2011) Peter Bosshard of International Rivers writes in the Guardian that China’s dam building frenzy threatens to destroy the country’s biodiversity. Ironically, trying to aggressively reduce CO2 emissions by building megadams will do more harm than good for the environment.
Below is an excerpt from the story, followed by a link to the full article.
As part of its low-carbon diet, the Chinese government plans to approve new hydropower plants with a capacity of 140 gigawatts over the next five years. For comparison, Brazil, the United States and Canada have each built between 75 and 85 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in their entire history. Achieving the new plan’s target would require building cascades of dams on several rivers in China’s south-west and on the Tibetan plateau – regions which are populated by ethnic minorities, ecologically fragile, rich in biodiversity, and seismically active.
As a harbinger of the new trend, the Chinese government recently announced that it would allow a dam cascade on the Nu River or Salween – a pristine river at the heart of a World Heritage Site – to be built. China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, had stopped these projects in 2004as a major concession to environmentalists. The government also agreed to shrink the most important fisheries reserve on the Yangtze River so that a new hydropower scheme could go forward.
The unprecedented dam building spree is being pushed by provincial governments and state-owned energy companies, which often pursue vested interests. In the past, these actors were kept in check by a coalition of environmental activists, journalists and government officials, who often managed to gain the ear of China’s top leaders. This has changed since Copenhagen. International pressure to limit greenhouse gas emissions is the single most important factor behind the huge push for hydropower in China.
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