20 more dams on the sources of Yangtze (Drichu) River

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

About 400 Chinese water managers and bureaucrats have gathered in Shanghai for the 3rd Yangtze Forum, which began yesterday, to discuss about the condition and plans for development of the Yangtze River. The Associated Press reported today that an official said that at least 20 dams will be build on its headwater tributary rivers: Yalong (Nyachu), Dadu (Gyarong Ngulchu) and Wujiang rivers. China Daily quotes Cai Qihua, director of Yangtze Water Resources Committee, that currently only 36% of Yangtze hydropower potential is exploited. Plans are to increase its exploitation to 50% by 2020, and then to 60% by 2030 (as given in the graphic figure below). I suspect these plans do not consider the complex implications of climate change on future water availability in these rivers seriously enough.

My guess is that these twenty dams include those slated for the Western Route of the South-North Water Transfer Project. The size of these dams is staggering: 175 meters high dam on Nyachu (Yalong River) connected with 131 kilometer long tunnel, and a 296 meter high dam on Gyarong Ngulchu (Dadu River) connected by a nearly-30 kilometers long tunnel, and much more.

The only people who can stop China from undertaking these projects are the Chinese people. Chinese environmentalists, officials, academics, journalists, and citizens, should speak out to stop these projects before it is too late. Demand for proper environmental impact assessment of these projects is a good way to start discussion.

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