(March 17, 2014) Reporter Lily Kuo takes an in-depth look at China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project — the world’s largest water diversion conceived originally by Mao Zedong as a way to relieve North China’s dwindling water resources by “borrowing” from the south of the country. But not even the project’s leaders are pretending the mammoth, ultra-complex, $80-billion scheme will solve China’s water problem. Moreover, it has already created extra problems. Kuo concludes the project is another example of an engineer-dominated government’s fondness for huge-scale vanity projects with a particular weakness for mega-water works. No wonder. Without the man-made institutions — a robust regulatory regime and the rule of law — the Chinese government is bereft of tools to induce the efficient use (and conservation) of water. And so it builds canals and moves water from one watershed to another, creating havoc and perpetuating the problem of China’s crippling water crisis.
(March 17, 2014) Part two of Lily Kuo’s substantial overview of China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project (SNWDP) and its resettlement process. Kuo notes that since 1949, more than 45 million Chinese have been displaced by infrastructure projects and, of those, 12 million have been moved for water schemes. The water projects, she notes, have a particularly depressing record in terms of outcomes for the resettled. Although there are signs, she says, of villagers moved for the SNWDP receiving better care than those in the past, the same old resettlement problems abound. Worst of all, there are no farms to tend and jobs to do. “This isn’t a life,” says one migrant of the soul-destroying joblessness. “In the morning, you see everyone sleeps in. In the afternoon, they play cards. That’s it.”
(November 12, 2013) China’s current fever for hydro development is such that even its unparalleled Three Gorges mega-dam now ranks as a mere fraction of its long-term dam agenda, reports Charles Lewis for Yale Environment 360. While China’s need for energy is undisputed, its emphasis on dam construction risks an irreversible legacy of damage the country may never recover from and flies in the face of its present Five Year Plan to develop clean energy, reduce pollution, and protect the environment, says Lewis. Echoing Probe International’s coverage of the innumerable threats posed by construction on such an unprecedented scale, Lewis presents here a valuable and succinct overview of the dangers China’s dam fever represents to its waterways, ecosystems, agriculture and fisheries, traditional livelihoods, species survival and even to its geological stability, as Probe International’s alarming 2012 findings revealed.
(May 31, 2013) The process of diverting water from the Yangtze River through the eastern route of China’s massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project began this week after 11 years since construction began. Although the water diversion intended for drought-prone cities in China’s arid northern regions “will enrich the water supply in the north, its impact on the ecosystem is irreversible,” said Ma Jun, an environmentalist.
(April 29, 2013) Understanding the forces behind China’s magnitude-7 earthquake in Sichuan Province more than a week ago should sound warning bells. Patricia Adams digs deep into the country’s recent rash of earthquakes in southwestern China and finds the region’s seismic risk is increasingly man-made.
(February 14, 2013) A dramatic push by China’s new leadership to revive a political passion for large dam projects has ignited concerns for neighbouring countries and environmentalists.
(November 29, 2012) As the most dammed country in the world and the largest exporter of dams abroad, China ranks as a hydropower-producing powerhouse with a wealth of experience that should inspire reassurance. The opposite is often the case, however, given China’s disregard for international social and environmental standards, both at home and overseas. A new action guide produced by the US-based environmental NGO, International Rivers Network, aims to help watchdogs of China’s ‘going out’ projects in their efforts to ensure safety and the rights of local communities affected by Chinese dam construction.
(November 23, 2012) The proposed takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen by China’s state-owned oil giant CNOOC should be nixed by the Canadian government, says Probe International’s Patricia Adams. As instruments of the Communist Party, China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are undisciplined by markets or the rule of law. Without subsidies, their rate of return on equity is negative. It would be impossible to stop them from distorting the Canadian economy, so Canada should just say no to CNOOC.
(November 21, 2012) As populist Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao prepares to retire, China’s new leadership is already looking at an aggressive plan to ramp up hydro capacity, as part of its ambitious 2020 energy goals. Under Wen, whose common touch earned him the nickname ‘Grandpa Wen’, a number of projects were shelved, including a series of dams on Yunnan’s untouched, UNESCO-protected Nu River – this is now slated for construction. The following Reuters report, by David Stanway, looks at the prospect of a renewed dam push in a country already struck by development fever. A tough sell, he notes, as an increasingly affluent middle-class – also the drivers of China’s consumption boom – push back against China’s “growth at all costs” economic model.
(October 18, 2010) A former forestry official-turned environmental activist is on trial in China for publishing a book about a controversial coal power plant without state permission. He stands accused, under China’s surreal justice system, of “conducting illegal business.”
(October 16, 2012) A new report by Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) warns that water shortages in China could undermine power production by water-intensive thermal generators and hydro dams, putting economic growth at risk, especially in the metals and mining, utilities, and manufacturing sectors. Allocating water resources by decree in China’s planned economy is unlikely to work, predicts HSBC’s strategist Wai-Shin Chan. Investors should beware and attempt to estimate the effect of looming shortages on the life of their assets: without water security, investors could be left stranded.
(September 1, 2012) The staggering costs of China’s Three Gorges Dam—the displacement of 1.7 million and counting, and a price tag six-times the original estimate—are well known. But the enormous project’s complicated operational demands are largely unknown, and they promise to get more vexing as more dams are built upstream. Power magazine looks at the complexities of delivering power from such large-scale hydropower plants trans-region, trans-province, and trans-basin and the pressing need for peak regulation, frequency regulation, and emergency reserves for hydropower plants.
(August 14, 2012) Having survived dinosaurs and the Ice Age, China’s legendary Paddlefish has met its gravest threat – Chinese Communist Party officials intent on building dams on the Yangtze to inflate their economic achievements, but that block fish migratory routes.
(July 6, 2012) Experts fear a proposed dam cascade slated for the Jinsha River, a tributary of the upper Yangtze River, could spell disaster. Reports on dam construction in western China’s seismic hazard zones and the risks of over-damming, released by Probe International earlier this year, are highlighted.
(July 4, 2012) As the fierce struggle between China’s hydropower industry and environmental conservationists rages anew, what has become clear in the meanwhile: the country’s rivers cannot sustain the current pace of development.