Critics query hydropower path to carbon neutrality.
China’s dam-building spree on the Tibetan Plateau has given Beijing immense leverage as controller of the region’s “blue gold” and with that power comes responsibility. For starters, to permit an open assessment of the impacts of these projects – particularly given the region’s vulnerability to seismic risk – and to share those findings with neighboring countries and the people most directly affected by dam construction upheaval.
2016 will be a decisive year for hydropower projects on the mainstream Mekong. Southeast-Asia based journalist, Tom Fawthrop, looks at the notion of ‘nice dams’ that supposedly don’t inflict too much damage on their surrounding environments and their opposite reality: the hidden costs of hydropower and the irreversible destruction of unique ecosystems.
American Rivers says “harmful” dam operations, not pollution, are threatening fish, wildlife and local communities.
CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, looks at the use of remote sensing to monitor the country’s vanishing “kidneys” — wetlands that provide a range of invaluable ecosystem services that have become seriously under threat from rapid urbanization and modernization.
This spotlight on mega-dams of note, profiled by International Rivers’ Peter Bosshard for The Guardian, lists more banes than boons with a quest Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, famously described as the “disease of gigantism.”
Despite its long lineage as one of the world’s oldest living species, the Chinese sturgeon — known as the “living fossil” because it dates back to the Cretaceous period — may not survive the surging dams and bridges built over the Yangtze River, reports China Daily.
China’s ambitious South-to-North Water Diversion project officially begins flowing next month and the impacts of the costly geo-engineering giant are starting to be felt in the regions tapped to redistribute water to the country’s parched north. “This project from the beginning has been as controversial as the Three Gorges,” says Probe International fellow and leading Chinese environmental journalist, Dai Qing.
Already, newly completed cascade dams along China’s Lancang River are altering the river’s hydrological regime and sediment flow, blocking fish migration and posing a risk to food security and livelihoods. As more cascade dams roll out along the Lancang, International Rivers offers a better understanding through their research of the environmental impacts of current development and what further impacts can be expected as more projects come online.
(May 16, 2014) Lake Poyang, the largest freshwater lake in China, has in the past decade suffered record low water levels and its worst drought in 60 years. Although uneven rainfall patterns and industry on the lake are partly behind the decline in volume, the Three Gorges Dam has emerged as a major cause of the lake’s shocking dry-up. On a recent trip to China, Mu Lan, the editor of Probe International’s Chinese Three Gorges Probe news service, explored the link between Poyang’s crisis and the country’s hydro colossus.
(May 16, 2014) Mu Lan, the editor of our Chinese Three Gorges Probe news service, documents in pictures the decline of China’s largest freshwater lake on the southern bank of the Yangtze River in east China’s Jiangxi Province for his report, “Is the Three Gorges Dam to blame for extreme drought in the Lake Poyang area?”
(October 21, 2013) Scientists are using medical technology to study the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise and their critical sense of hearing, used for navigation, to understand how these mammals are managing in the very busy and loud waters of China’s high-traffic Yangtze River. “In a noisy environment, they’d have a hard time hearing their prey or their friend. It makes it more difficult for them to conduct basic biological activities such as foraging, communicating, and navigating in the river,” said biologist and lead author of the survey, Aran Mooney.
(June 20, 2013) A new report says the global push to reduce greenhouse gases by building small dams, with the help of the Kyoto Protocol, is causing unanticipated and potentially significant losses to habitat and biodiversity.
(December 19, 2012) A central government plan to dramatically increase China’s reliance on non-fossil fuels will derive two-thirds of that target from hydropower – “an increase on par with adding nearly one Three Gorges Dam a year,” reports Jane Qiu for Science magazine. In her article on over-development of the country’s river pulse, the once mighty Yangtze, Qiu looks at the threat China’s damming fever poses to river habitats and species, the calamity potential of dam construction in quake-prone regions and mounting criticism of China’s biased environmental impact assessment process.
(November 30, 2012) Chinese scientists have begun an expedition to count how many endangered finless porpoise remain in the Yangtze River. A similar survey in 2006 found only 1,800 of the animals, considered a national treasure, as well as a symbol of the mighty river itself and a reflection of the great waterway’s health.