China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

China to build hydroelectric project in southwest


By Andrew Yeh in Beijing Via Ft.com
Last updated: June 6 2006 12:52

Beijing has approved construction of a hydroelectric project in southwest China that will be the country’s third-largest.


The approval of the Baihetan plant on the Jinsha River at the border of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces highlights the government’s commitment to developing hydropower despite growing concerns about dam’s environmental and social impact.

The Baihetan project will be built by the China Three Gorges Project Corp, which also built the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River and is working on Xiluodu, another hydropower project along the Jinsha, a Yangtze tributary.

When completed, Baihetan was expected to have total installed capacity of 12 gigawatts and average annual output of 56bn kilowatt-hours, the China Three Gorges Project Corp said in a statement on its website.

The Baihetan project is only slightly smaller than the Xiluodu plant, China’s second largest hydropower project, which has an estimated capacity of 12.6 gigawatts and is planned for completion by 2015.

The Three Gorges Dam, which will have total installed capacity of 18.2GW, was completed well ahead of schedule in late May. The massive engineering project has cost roughly Rmb180bn and taken well over a decade to build.

Demolition of the last temporary building structure at the Three Gorges Dam took place on Tuesday afternoon and was widely reported in official media. The dam has generated much controversy over the years due to the mass relocations and inundation of river towns it has required and the risk of further silt and pollution accumulating in the Yangtze.

The Xiluodu project has also been controversial. Early last year, that project came under the close scrutiny of the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa), which accused it of failing to carry out a proper environmental impact assessment. The project continued, however.

While China’s government is still easily able to order large-scale engineering projects that might be politically impossible in democratic nations, concerns over dams’ environmental and social impact has been growing in recent years.

Zhu Guangyao, Sepa vice minister, also said earlier this week that plans for a series of hydropower projects along the Nu River, which runs from southwest China into south-east Asia, were being reviewed.

He said the projects will undergo “substantial changes” from their original plan from 2004, when Beijing ordered a halt to construction due to worries over their effect on the environment.

Some areas surrounding the Nu River, which is known as the Salween in south-east Asia, are well-known for being rich in biodiversity.

“The state encourages orderly exploitation of hydropower resources and has reset energy development strategy,” Sepa said in a white paper released this week.

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