Dams On China’s Yellow River Near Collapse

From AFP:

Several dams on China’s mighty Yellow River are close to collapse just a few years after they were built amid concerns that over 40 percent of the nation’s reservoirs are unsafe, state media has said.

Shoddy construction, unqualified workers and embezzlement of funds are threatening dams’ safety in the northwestern province of Gansu, the official China Daily said — a situation that could also put people in danger.

“Several dams on branches of the Yellow River in Gansu province are near collapse only one or two years after their construction,” the paper said.

Meanwhile, authorities have cancelled planned dam projects over environmental or other concerns. From Inter Press Service:

Over the last few months, Beijing has pulled the plug on several highly controversial dam projects in resource-rich southwestern China – delighting environmentalists and sending a warning to wayward localities to toe its line.

“What we see now reflects a decision made by the very top leadership to balance development with environmental protection,” says Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. “It is not an easy decision to make in the middle of an economic crisis and it illustrates Beijing’s determination.”

Last week, China’s environmental watchdog suspended approval for hydropower stations along the middle reaches of the Jinsha (Yangtze) river. It made the decision after finding out that two of the mainland’s biggest power companies have begun illegal construction to dam the river.

The announcement comes on the heels of a reported decision by Beijing in late May to halt work on another controversial dam planned on the Nu river – also called the Salween by downstream countries.

On the Yangtze River near Chongqing, environmentalists have protested plans to build a dam in an area that is rich in endangered fish. From Reuters:

Scientists and activists have petitioned the government to veto the Xiaonanhai dam, which would block a critical stretch of China’s longest river above the city of Chongqing, and create a reservoir stretching deep into a national-level reserve.

“This reserve is considered by many fish experts as the last habitat for some of the endangered and local fish species,” said environmentalist Ma Jun, who signed a letter asking the government to protect rare Yangtze fish threatened by the construction of too many dams.

For fish that have evolved to migrate and breed along a free-flowing river, large reservoirs can be a death sentence.

June 19, 2009 5:14 AM
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Categories: Economy, Environment