China suspends two Yangtze dams

Construction of two ambitious hydropower dams in the upper Yangtze River region has been suspended because the projects were illegally started without necessary environmental assessments, Reuters reported. The announcement – widely carried in state media on Friday – was “an unusually aggressive move by the country’s ministry of environmental protection”, the news agency noted.

The dams are part of an estimated 200-billion-yuan (US$30 billion) project involving hydropower stations along the Jinsha River tributary in Yunnan Province, south-western China. Environmentalists have argued that the stations would damage the biodiversity of the Lijiang region, an important tourism and trekking area.

In a notice on its website, the environment ministry said two large state-owned power companies — Huadian Power and Huaneng Power — began blocking the middle reaches of the river with their Ludila and Longkaikou projects in January, without its approval. The ministry’s local bureaus still answer to local governments, despite the ministry’s status being upgraded last year.

“To protect the management of the environment … and to punish the violation of the environment and illegal acts regarding the environment, the environmental ministry decided to suspend the construction projects in the middle reaches of the Jinsha River,” ministry spokesman Tao Detian said in the statement. Tao said additional environmental reviews would be needed for the hydropower projects to proceed.

China plans to build 12 hydropower projects along the 2,290-kilometre Jinsha River, which flows from northern Qinghai province south to Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The electricity output from the stations is estimated to equal that from the Three Gorges Dam in central China.

See full story