Yangtze dam project to be reviewed

China’s environmental protection ministry has ordered an ecological assessment for a proposed Yangtze River dam that conservationists say could threaten hundreds of fish species and drive the giant Chinese sturgeon into extinction, the Associated Press reported. “The Chinese government is fond of developing hydropower, but we must take into account the environmental effects of those projects,” said the ministry’s chief engineer, Wan Bentai.


Scientists and environmentalists are trying to stop the Xiaonanhai dam, upstream from Chongqing city in western China. They say that the dam and two others would flood most of the last remaining fish reserve on the Yangtze. Rare fish species would be prevented from migrating, they argue, and the endangered Chinese sturgeon – which requires a sufficient length of flowing water — could become extinct.


In announcing the environmental assessment order at a news conference, Wan said the ministry had the power to reject the project if it is shown to be harmful to the environment. The assessment will be commissioned by the Chongqing government.


An estimated 338 fish species live in the Yangtze basin, 162 of them unique to the river, according to an article in the China Economic Times last month, written by a group of eight scientists and environmentalists. The sturgeon, which can grow up to five metres long and weigh as much as 500 kilogrammes, is classified as a protected animal in China.


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