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China to approve more hydropower dams in Tibet this year

March 12, 2014

(TibetanReview.net, Mar12, 2014) – Despite the huge costs of resettling migrants and the added risks of earthquakes and ecosystem losses, China is to give a new push to building more hydropower dams in mountainous regions of occupied Tibet this year to meet its clean energy target for the 2011-15 Five-Year Plan period, according to Reuters Mar 10. The report cited Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying in his annual address to the National People’s Congress the week before that China would start construction on a number of hydro and nuclear power projects this year, with cleaner energy a key part of its new "war against pollution."

"Looking at the major projects in the pipeline including those on the Yarlong, Dadu and Jinsha (rivers), which could complete construction by 2015, China would meet and exceed its target ... by as much as 5GW-10GW," Grace Mang, China programme director with advocacy group International Rivers, was quoted as saying. All these rivers rise from Tibet, including Tibet Autonomous Region.

To meet a 2020 target to raise capacity to 420GW, up 50% from the end of last year, the government is committed to putting 120GW of new plants into construction over the 2011-15 period, the report said. However tougher approval rules meant it had fallen behind. Premier Li obviously meant to change that.

Zhang Boting, vice-secretary general of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering, has said hydropower construction will see a relatively large increase this year, compared to last year. However, he feels meeting the five-year construction targets will still be difficult.

The urgency to give a new push to building more hydropower dams is said to arise from the fact that new capacity approved for construction over 2011-2013 accounted for less than a quarter of the amount originally scheduled in a five-year energy plan published two years ago.

China is already the biggest hydropower producer in the world and is on course to exceed a target to raise its hydro capacity by 70 gigawatts over 2011-15.

The report also cited experts as saying that while China had started building more plants on major rivers in the southwest, controversial projects on the Nu River in Yunnan and the Brahmaputra River in the TAR were not expected to get the go-ahead in the near term.

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