The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts describes the problem of rampant hydropower development in a Hubei nature reserve, where projects are often pushed forward by interested officials regardless of regulations or impact on local residents and environment.
“I have complained again and again, but they fob me off and say, ‘Go ahead and sue us. You will never win’,” Zhou says. “The government officials have all invested in these projects. Everyone knows that. How else do they force them through so quickly …?”
They normally attract little attention. While mega-projects like the Three Gorges Dam or the South-North water diversion affect millions of people, the impact of each small diversion in remote areas is often felt by a less than 1,000 families. But with 85,000 dams in China, the multiple affect is huge and even when small, can cause immense ecological damage, particularly when clustered together, poorly designed and irresponsibly operated ….
But the authorities are committed to an expansion of hydropower, which means the best that environmentalists can hope for is probably the closure or postponement of a handful of particularly damaging or illegal projects in the most ecologically sensitive areas.
Environmental values remain second to economic priorities, as was evident outside Shennongjia on a roadside propaganda slogan: “Green is just fashion. Ecology is just a brand.”
See also, via CDT: China’s Biggest Relocation Project Yet, on resettlements to make way for the South-North Water Diversion Project, and China’s Coal Rush Leaves Three Million Living on the Edge, on the similar impact of coal mining on local communities.