Wang Jirong: Nujiang River Hydropower Development must not be rushed

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National Business Daily 6 March 2011

Reporter: Li Zemin

Source: National Business Daily

http://tech. ifeng. com/gundong/detail_2011_03/06/4997557_0. shtml

“Construction of the Nu River hydropower project must not be rushed”, said Wang Jirong, vice-chairman of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, a member of the National People’s Congress and deputy director of its Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, in an exclusive interview with the National Business Daily. His comments were made with regards to one of the two soon-to-be-developed rivers – the Nu River, which is currently facing problems typically associated with being developed.

In late January of this year, the relevant authorities in the Ministry of Energy made it known that they were in the early stages of discussions about construction and development. Specific recommendations were yet to be made, but the Nu River would definitely be opened up for development. However, as early as 2008, Wang Jirong had already made and appeal: she felt that, in the context of world cultural heritage protection plans, river basin integrated development plans, river basin hydropower development and other such plans, as well as environmental impact documents not having been processed and environmental impact assessment not having received an official response, no single hydropower project should simply be given the green light.

Yesterday afternoon, Wang Jirong told journalists that she was in the final stages of drafting a proposal concerning the development of hydropower construction on the Nu River She said that there were now a range of opinions about this particular question.

The Nu River is a major global water resource, and after installation generators would have a capacity reaching 42 gigawatts, making this one of the six biggest hydropower plants in the country. According to other media reports relating to the development, seven years ago, the relevant departments issued a report to the State Council entitled “Plans for Hydropower on the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Nu River”. The State Council commented that: “policy regarding this kind of large-scale hydropower project, which has attracted much public interest and elicited a range of environmental viewpoints, should be made after careful research and based on scientific evidence”. The development plans in this previous report were returned for further consideration.

Fan Xiaodui, chief engineer on the geological research team at the Sichuan Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, said to the National Business Daily: “It would best if the Nu River were not developed; the impact on the geological environment would be too great. Since the Nu River is a geologically high-risk area, the price paid for development would be very high, for example: earthquakes, landslides and other such disasters.”

Those in the know have revealed that hydroelectric development of the Nu River has to go through two procedures: there is an initial feasibility study, which includes an environmental impact assessment. This has already been approved by the relevant government departments in

Yunnan province. Then there is a final feasibility study that must be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Council. This is currently still awaiting approval.

Recently environmental organizations and many geologists, pinning their hopes on having worked as hard they could, have still been making appeals for the protection of this free-flowing stretch of river.

The start of development of the Nu River can be traced back to 1999; at that time a rough plan for the development of the Nu River was produced and included, significantly, the construction of a level 13 hydroelectric plant on the Nu River. In the years since, there has been ongoing debate between supporters and opponents as to whether the Nu River should be developed or not.

Fan Xiao told the National Business Daily that the previous construction plan for the level 13 hydroelectric plant was deemed “absolutely unacceptable” at the time; at the very least some revision was required. However, even though no revisions have been made since this initial assessment, work linked to the construction of a level 13 dam on the Nu River has still been carried forward, which has left some geologists beset with worry.

At the end of February, together with other geologists Sun Wenpeng, a researcher at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, signed a joint petition addressed to the State Council voicing their latest opinions regarding the Nu River development project: “Due to the Nu River's unique and complex geology, the region’s geologically high-risk nature and other such considerations, building a dam on the Nu River would be exceptionally risky.”

Translator: Mark Skinner

Proofreader: Samuel Harding