Posts tagged ‘Xiaonanhai Dam’

19/04/2015

Enforcing environmental rules: Saving fish and baring teeth | The Economist

ON TAKING over in February as China’s minister for environmental protection, Chen Jining said the country needed an environmental law that was “not a paper tiger” but rather a “sharp weapon with teeth of steel”. Early indications, among them the cancellation of a series of dam projects on the upper reaches of the Yangzi river, are that the former academic and university administrator intends to follow through on his fighting words.

State media have reported that the builders of the Yangzi’s Xiaonanhai dam—expected to cost 32 billion yuan ($5.1 billion) and to generate two gigawatts of electricity—were denied permission to continue because of the harm it would cause to a nature reserve that is the last remaining habitat for many species of rare fish. Work on its foundations began in 2012, but was halted while the environment ministry assessed the project. Two smaller dams on the same stretch of river were also rejected.

Activists in China welcomed the decision, saying it showed a new determination to enforce environmental rules. According to Ma Jin of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Chinese NGO in Beijing, the firms that applied to build the dams, led by the Three Gorges Project Corporation, had previously won permission for other dams that would endanger fish populations by arguing that the protected nature reserve near the Xiaonanhai project would guarantee their survival. That, he says, makes the project “particularly outrageous”.

via Enforcing environmental rules: Saving fish and baring teeth | The Economist.

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20/09/2013

The politics of Chinese dam-building: Opening the floodgates

The Economist: “CHINA has many good reasons not to build the $5.2 billion Xiaonanhai dam on the Yangzi river in Chongqing. The site, on a gentle slope that moves water along only slowly, is not ideal for generating hydropower. The fertile soil makes it one of China’s most productive regions, so it is densely populated with farmers reaping good harvests. And the dam (see map), which would produce only 10% of the electricity of the Three Gorges project downstream, could destroy a rare fish preserve, threatening several endangered species including the Yangzi sturgeon.

Yet it does not matter how strong the case may be against Xiaonanhai, because the battle against a hydropower scheme in China is usually lost before it is fought. The political economy of dam-building is rigged. Though the Chinese authorities have made much progress in evaluating the social and environmental impact of dams, the emphasis is still on building them, even when mitigating the damage would be hard. Critics have called it the “hydro-industrial complex”: China has armies of water engineers (including Hu Jintao, the former president) and at least 300 gigawatts of untapped hydroelectric potential. China’s total generating capacity in 2012 was 1,145GW, of which 758GW came from coal-burning plants.

An important motive for China to pursue hydropower is, ironically, the environment. China desperately needs to expand its energy supply while reducing its dependence on carbon-based fuels, especially coal. The government wants 15% of power consumption to come from clean or renewable sources by 2020, up from 9% now. Hydropower is essential for achieving that goal, as is nuclear power. “Hydro, including large hydro in China, is seen as green,” says Darrin Magee, an expert on Chinese dams at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York state.

There is also a political reason why large hydro schemes continue to go ahead. Dambuilders and local governments have almost unlimited power to plan and approve projects, whereas environmental officials have almost no power to stop them.”

via The politics of dam-building: Opening the floodgates | The Economist.

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