China stops dam construction

By Richard High17 June 2009

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has suspended construction of two dams on the Upper Yangtze River in the southwest of the country.

The two dams on the Jinsha River (River of Golden Sands), the name given to a 2300 km-long section of the Yangtze, had started without an environmental assessment or approval from the MEP, according to officials quoted by state news agencies.

The dams are part of an estimated CNY 200 billion (US$ 30 billion) project to construct 12 hydro-electric power (HEP) stations along the Jinsha River, which flows from the northern Qinghai province to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

Environmentalists and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including US-based International Rivers, have criticised the projects saying they would damage the region's environment and biodiversity.

China's two large state-owned power companies, Huadian Power and Huaneng Power, started blocking the middle reaches of the river at Longkaikou and Ludila in January without approval from the MEP.

"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," said an MEP statement.

Two other dams on the Jinsha River have received MEP approval, but a dam planned for the Tiger Leaping Gorge area was suspended after public protests in 2005.

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