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Ministry blocks dams on upper reaches of Yangtze

Zhao Xinying and Zheng Jinran
Updated: Apr 10,2015 7:43 AM     China Daily

The Ministry of Environmental Protection rejected one of China’s biggest hydropower dam projects on March 30 based on the results of an environmental impact assessment, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on April 10.

The ministry said in its response to the assessments of a series of dam projects that all dam construction, including the Xiaonanhai Dam, should be banned on the Jinsha River, the upstream segment of the Yangtze River.

The response document, which hasn’t been made public, said the national-level reserves protecting rare fish located upstream of the Yangtze have been greatly affected over the past 10 years because of the dam projects on the Jinsha.

The Business Herald report, quoting from the document, said the projects were rejected to secure the boundaries of the reserves.

Other projects banned were the Zhuyangxi Dam and Shi-pengshui Dam.

The Xiaonanhai Dam, with an initial investment plan of 32 billion yuan ($5.13 billion), and a projected electrical output of 2 million kilowatts, would be one of the biggest projects to be banned.

Environmental Protection Minister Chen Jining had stressed earlier that the revised Environmental Protection Law should be brought into play-the toughest version, which provides strict punishments for violators.

No projects are allowed to start construction until they pass an environmental assessment.

Ma Jun, an expert at the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the rejection of the projects sent a signal that the ministry was determined to fight actions that harm the nation’s ecology.

“The document exhibited a serious attitude toward the projects. So I believe these dams will definitely not be constructed in the future, which is positive news for the environmental protection field,” Ma said.

“The key for environmental protection in China is the implementation of the law. I’m glad to see that the minister has been stressing this point and holding to it,” he added.

The Xiaonanhai Dam was first proposed in the 1990s, when Chongqing was still part of Sichuan province. It was pushed forward after 1997, when the city became a municipality.

With a growing need for electricity in Chongqing, the project received much attention from the municipality, because it would relieve the short supply.

However, the project has been suspended since its foundation was laid in 2012 because of protests from environmentalists, who said it would hinder the spawning of dozens of rare fish species in the Yangtze River.

Objections also came from Luzhou and Yibin in neighboring Sichuan province. Both cities, located upstream of the Yangtze, worried that the project would curtail traffic on the Yangtze, which flows across the province.