Monday, October 24, 2005

China debating dam project



BEIJING Chinese plans to turn an untamed river into a hydroelectric hub have sparked a war of words about national priorities as the government rethinks the balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

Officials and experts in Beijing are debating a plan to harness the Nu River in southwest Yunnan Province with a chain of up to 13 hydropower stations amid signs of revived official favor for the project.

The whole project, which could take a decade or more to build, would generate more power than the mammoth Three Gorges Dam and displace 50,000 farmers, supporters said this weekend.

But opponents claimed that it would tear the region's delicate social and environmental fabric with little benefit to locals. They have recently circulated a petition urging the government to release studies of the dams' environmental impact and allow greater public debate.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao halted the project and ordered further studies early last year after a pioneering public campaign by opponents that was backed by China's top environmental protection agency.

China pollution to rise

China's rapid economic growth is posing a major challenge to the environment, with air pollution likely to rise fivefold in 15 years, Agence France-Presse reported, citing officials in Beijing.

"In the future 15 years, the population of China will reach 1.46 billion and the GDP will double, the pollution load will increase by four to five times," said Zhang Lijun, vice minister of China's environmental agency, SEPA.


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