Jun 03, 2013

Tibet: China Dams Tibet

China is set to restart construction on a series of dams in Tibet, which were stopped in 2004 due to environmental concerns.

Below is an article published by The Tibetan Review:

Building dams on the Nu river (Tibetan: Gyalmo Ngulchu) in Tibet stopped in 2004 by China’s then Premier Wen Jiabao due to serious environmental concerns, is set to be resumed under the new leadership which assumed party power late last year and government power in March this year, reported AFP May 31. Already, China's environment ministry approved the Shuangjingkou dam in a Tibetan area of southwestern Sichuan province earlier this month, the world's tallest at 314 metres high, the report added.

Most controversially, the report noted, at least five major dams will be built on the Nu river – which flows into Myanmar and Thailand, where it is known as the Salween – despite concerns about their impact on unique flora and fauna in a region abutting the Himalayas.

Former Premier Wen’s rare climbdown in 2004 came after a fierce battle by Environmentalists against early proposals for a dam on the river, the report noted. Given China’s ambitious plan to provide 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, the new leadership is seen as being less sensitive environmental concerns.

China’s major economic sectors are dominated by families of top leaders, with the energy sector being controlled by that of former Premier Li Peng of the Tiananmen massacre infamy. The report said the ambitious plans had left some in China's growing environmental movement feeling powerless. "Industry and local governments support these hydropower projects, because they'll profit from them," Ms Dai Qing, who had spent time in prison for her opposition to the Three Gorges dam, was quoted as saying. "And they will be built no matter what local people say."

The report noted that the rapid expansion in hydropower had prompted fears among China's neighbours, with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raising concerns in March over Beijing's plans to construct three dams across the Brahmaputra river (Tibetan: Yarlung Tsangpo), which rises in Tibet and runs for hundreds of kilometres through the region before entering India.