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China ready to build 42GW of dams on Salween

1 Feb 2011

China intends to develop a number of hydro power projects on the Salween River, an official has told a state-run radio station.

Shi Lishan, the deputy director for renewable energy at the country’s National Energy Administration, said he hoped progress on the project would be made during the 12th five-year plan, which covers the period from 2011 to 2015.

A string of 13 dams on the river – known in China as the Nu – was first proposed in 2004, but the plan was dropped after complaints from environmentalists and reported disagreements at high levels of the government.

The United Nations’ heritage agency, Unesco, issued a warning that the site would be added to its ‘in danger’ list if the project went ahead.

But China is relying on large hydro projects to meet its target of generating 15 per cent of energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020.

A ‘cascade’ of dams could generate as much as 42GW, even more than the mammoth Three Gorges dam in central China, which was completed in 2008 despite opposition from campaigners.

The dam, at 18.2GW the world’s largest power plant, flooded an area of one million square kilometres (390,000 square miles) and displaced 1.3 million people.

China is still planning to build smaller dams on the Jinsha river, upstream of the Three Gorges. Almost all the country’s major rivers are already tapped for hydro power.

State-owned Sinohydro, which built the Three Gorges Dam and is the world’s largest hydroelectric power company, is also likely to build the dams on the Salween.

The river rises on the Tibetan plateau and flows south through China’s Yunnan province and on into Burma.

Burma has already begun building dams on its section of the river, often with Chinese support.

A 2.4GW dam planned by two Chinese companies, Hanergy Holding Group and Gold Water Resources Company, triggered heavy fighting between Burmese forces and Shan rebels in 2009, when troops entered Shan territory to evict residents. Over 30,000 refugees fled into Yunnan province.

Copyright © 2011 NewNet

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