China's Dams

A new threat to safety along the Yangtze River

(May 11, 2012) Chinese hydropower magnates plan to build 25 new dam reservoirs on the Yangtze’s upper reaches despite warnings of seismic risks from dam-building overload in the area, and in spite of recent evacuation efforts due to the threat of geological disaster at Three Gorges.

The Jinsha River flows through Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China. [File photo]

The development plan, which involves the installation of 25 reservoirs along the Jinsha River the upper reaches of the Yangtze River  would also impact the lower Yangtze, particularly in areas hard hit by drought and silt buildup. Chinese experts worry that numerous reservoirs built close together could lead to consequences bad beyond imaginable, especially in the downstream provinces of Hunan and Jiangxi, reports China’s Dazhong Daily a long-running newspaper focused on agricultural issues.

Jinsha River cut up by hydropower magnates

By Li Jingrong, Dazhong Daily

The 2,308-km long Jinsha River, the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, will be cut into pieces by 25 reservoirs, located at every 100 km, in the near future, the Dazhong Daily reported Friday. The development plan is dominated by five hydropower magnates.

The development plan includes installing 25 reservoirs with an overall capacity equaling that of four Three Gorges Dams, according to Sichuan-based Hengduan Mountains Research Institute and local government.

Twenty-four reservoirs are monopolized by five state-run corporations, namely China Three Gorges, China Resources, China Datang, China Huadian and China Huaneng. Only the Jin’an Bridge Power Station was constructed by privately-run Hanneng Shareholding Group.

The Jinsha River flows through Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China. Jinsha means golden sand in Chinese. The hydropower development plans for the river took off in 2008.

Scientists worry that reservoirs being built in large numbers in the area, would lead to consequences bad beyond imaginable, especially in Hunan and Jiangxi provinces in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

Yang Yong, a leading scientist of the research institute, said “The development means the long, surging river will be carved into numerous sections of calm waters, and lose its grandeur forever.”

Weng Lida, director of the Yangtze River Water Resources Protection Bureau, said that the development plan only gives consideration to hydropower and hardly takes into account the interests of other parties involved.”

“The droughts in Dongting and Poyang lakes in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River might be getting worse,” said Weng, “With the completion of the water storage project, the silt will be another obvious and unavoidable problem.”

Local government statistics show that the overall installed capacity of the 10 hydropower stations, from Liyuan to Xiangjiaba in the lower reaches of the Jinsha River, totals to 62.35 million kilowatt, an increase of 10.57 million kilowatt from the year 2003.

Chen Kaiqi, a senior engineer of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, thinks that the unsystematic development has severely disturbed the local environment. “The eco-system is being damaged and improper relocation projects have led to a series of social problems as well.”

Read the Probe International report, here.

Further Reading

Feverish Chinese dam building could trigger tsunami

China’s Three Gorges Dam prompts more evacuations

Breaking news: Disaster threat in Three Gorges Dam region to move 100,000

New upheaval: 20,000 to relocate over landslide risk

Omen on the Yangtze

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