Chinese Official Urges Restraint on Yangtze Dam Building
12 Jun 2012 - 10:00 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
BEIJING, China — Chinese Deputy Environment Minister Wu Xiaoqing last week urged some restraint in the country’s big push to build dams. As many as 36 dams are being build or planned, on the upper sections of the Yangtze River.
The country should learn from its past efforts in large dam construction in the southwest region, Wu told a World Environment Day conference. Environmental and resettlement concerns are increasing, and geological risks in the region, particularly earthquakes and landslides, are also a concern.
Wu is urging both central government agencies and local governments to perform full environmental impact statements on all dams, including reviewing the effects of existing dams, before any more are constructed.
"It is the prerequisite of our pursuit of active hydropower development that we should properly deal with environmental protection and resettlement," NGO International Rivers quoted him as saying.
There is ongoing controversy surrounding construction of the Xiaonanhai Dam on the upper Yangtze and four mega-dams on the lower Jinsha River.
The Xiaonanhai Dam in Chongqing was a favorite of the municipality’s disgraced former Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, who left office in March. If built, the dam will cost an estimated $3.75 billion USD and have capacity of 1,760 megawatts.
“The project is an example of a powerful municipality seeking short-term economic benefits at the price of habitat for endangered fish species, relocating prosperous communities and, with two other proposed dams, turning the last undammed part of the Yangtze River into a series of reservoirs,” the NGO said in a statement on its website.
Regardless of these issues, early preparatory work for the project began just two weeks after Bo’s left office in late March.
"We have been closely watching the project and attached lots of attention to the opinions of the media and various social groups," Wu said, adding that the dam is still must get formal environment ministry approval.
"So far, we have not received the environmental impact assessment report for the dam project," he said.
Meanwhile, the other enormous and controversial dam on the Yangtze, the Three Gorges Dam, has seen improved water quality recently on the section of the river in Chongqing municipality.
The quality of this part of the river is the best of all of China’s top seven river basins, according to the Chongqing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.