China to develop Nu river hydro projects?

Feb 10, 2011 12:00 AM

by: David Stanway

China is ready to start building a series of controversial hydro power plants on the Nu River in the south western province of Yunnan, state media said. "We believe the Nu River can be developed and we hope that progress can be made.. during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015)," Shi Lishan, the deputy director of new energy at the National Energy Administration (NEA), told Chinese national radio.

The construction of dams and reservoirs on the UNESCO-protected Nu River -- also known as the Salween -- was first proposed in 2004, but disputes among China's leadership and opposition from both Chinese and south-east Asian environmental groups has delayed the projects. The Nu River, which begins in the Himalayas and snakes its way along the far western edge of Yunnan before entering Myanmar and Thailand, is one of the few major Chinese rivers yet to be dammed. The Chinese government says total potential capacity on the river could stand at 42 GW.

The construction of big hydroelectric projects slowed in China after the completion of the world's largest facility at the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, with China's leadership wary about the costs of relocating thousands of displaced residents as well as the environmental impact of massive reservoirs. But with China committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in its total energy mix to 15 % by 2020, there have been signs that the tide is turning, and the Nu River is one of a number of potential new projects now back on the agenda.

Recently, the official China Securities Journal said that a pledge to dam the Nu River was likely to be included in China's latest 5-year plan for the renewable energy sector. The plan is also expected to include a commitment to accelerate dam construction on the Jinsha River, the upstream section of the Yangtze also situated in Yunnan province.
China plans to build an additional 140 GW of hydro power capacity in the next 5 years, the NEA revealed earlier this month.

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