China to reduce impacts of 13-dam Nu River plan

A Chinese environmental official says the government will make substantial changes to its plans for 13 hydroelectric dams on the Nu River, due to concerns about ecological and social effects in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

While the Nu could generate about 22,000 MW, critics say it would tear apart the region’s delicate environmental fabric. Neighboring countries also have expressed concern that the plan would disrupt the 2,000-kilometer river, which is called the Salween where it runs through Myanmar, along the border with Thailand, and empties into the Indian Ocean.

“Although the review process is still under way, we are going to make very substantial changes and adjustments to the original development proposal,” Zhu Guangyao, a vice minister at the State Environmental Protection Administration, told a June 5 news conference.

Environmental impact assessments of the project have not been made public, but Zhu said, as a result of the studies, the government is looking more carefully at development plans for the river.

“It has drawn great concerns from the Greater Mekong subregion as well as the international community,” Zhu said. “We need to take full consideration of the ecological consequences as a result of development, as well as the impact on social and economic development of the Nu River and the impact on counties and countries on the lower reaches of the river.”

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