China approves new hydroelectric dam project despite environmental fears

Environmental impact assessment finds dam would have negative impact on rare fish and flora

China’s environment ministry has approved the construction of what will be the country’s tallest hydroelectric dam despite conceding that the new dam will have serious environmental consequences.

The dam, which is expected to be 314m high, will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project on the Dadu River in southwestern Sichuan province.

This is far taller than the Three Gorges Dam, which serves the world's biggest hydropower station on the Yangtze River and measures 185m.

[CF413]Investment of €3bn
[/CF413]The project will be built over 10 years by a subsidiary of the state-owned Guodian group, China's biggest power company, and is expected to cost 24.68 billion yuan (€3 billion) in investment.


Guodian was one of a number of state-owned firms criticised by China’s national audit office last week for starting work on projects that had not yet been approved by the central government.

The Chinese government has also overturned a ban on dam-building on other rivers, including a controversial project on the undeveloped Nu River in Yunnan province. The Irish Times will report on this project later this week.

The ministry said an environmental impact assessment had acknowledged that the project would have a negative impact on rare fish and flora and would affect protected local nature reserves.

Developers, it said, had pledged to take "counter-measures" to mitigate the effects. The project still requires the formal go-ahead from the State Council, China's cabinet.

China aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 per cent by 2020, up from 9.4 per cent in 2011. Hydropower is expected to make the biggest contribution.

The completed Sichuan project will have a total installed capacity of 20 gigawatts, with annual power generation to exceed seven billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).

China’s tallest dam now, at 292m, is the Xiaowan Dam on the Lancang River, also known as the Mekong.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing