According to environmental activists, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection has issued an order that will stop the building of a hydroelectric dam near the western city of Chongqing on the upper Yangtze River. The proposed dam, Xiaonanhai Dam, would have been Chongqing’s largest infrastructure project was expected to cost billions of dollars to build and operate. The project was fiercely opposed by environmentalists for years while supported by the politician Bo Xilai, who was given prison time for corruption charges in 2013.
According to environmentalists, the dam stood to destroy a protected area of the river that had previously been established by officials to offset the environmental repercussions of the world’s largest hydropower projects, the Three Gorges Dam, located just downstream. This area has been a haven for a wide variety of many rare and endangered fish that require rapidly flowing waters to survive.
Copies of the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s order were allegedly obtained by environmentalists and posted online this week. Zhang Boju, an advocate at Friends of Nature, a nongovernmental organization that has been a persistent critic of the dam, said in a telephone interview that he, and other environmentalists, believed the document was authentic. The ministry declined to comment on the order.
Mr. Zhang and others resisted the Xiaonanhai Dam, because the dangerous precedent of its construction, would imply that the designation of natural areas as protected zones, mean very little to the government. “If the Xiaonanhai Dam was built, the entire protection zone would be destroyed, and the protection-zone system would be rendered meaningless,” he said.
During Mr. Bo’s tenure as party chief of Chongqing, the largest municipal area in China, the government tried to decrease the size of the protected area along the Yangtze to better facilitate dam construction. The State Council, China’s cabinet, approved a proposal to shrink the preserve in December 2011. The project has been on hold since 2012 due to the protests of the activists.
Source: New York Times