Greens may cancel plan to sue dams watchdog
Activists receive 'positive response' to their concerns over Nu River project
Environmental activists are expected to cancel a plan to sue the country's top environmental watchdog over the controversial damming of the Nu River in Yunnan , a Beijing-based lawyer said.
Chen Yueqin said the activists decided to reconcile with the State Environmental Protection Administration after they received 'a positive response' over their requests.
In a letter dated June 18, the activists threatened that they would take Sepa to court if it did not halt all preparation for the Nu River project, which originally included 13 dams along the river, by the end of June.
'We are partly satisfied with Sepa's reply, promising that no illegal projects will be approved in the ecologically sensitive areas, including the Nu River areas (which is home to a Unesco world heritage site),' Ms Chen said.
Sepa insisted that it had not approved any of the proposed dams.
Sepa also said in the letter dated June 23 that, after comparing several proposals, including abandoning the hydropower plant completely, it supported a scaled-down version of building four dams despite growing concerns over the hydropower plant's damage to the environment and native culture, including those of neighbouring countries.
'From environmentalists' point of view, we certainly hope that no dams will be built on the river,' said Ms Chen. But it seemed increasingly impossible as the country's power-planning authorities have repeatedly stressed the importance of developing hydropower to ease acute energy shortages.
'Sepa's power is rather limited as it has a say only in approving environmental assessment reports of the dam project,' she said. 'Sepa's reply shows the agency's efforts towards transparency and will help clear its name in the controversies over the project.
'But we can see that Sepa is willing to co-operate with environmental activists in their campaign to protect the Nu River.'
Despite Premier Wen Jiabao's order to halt the project in February 2004, preparation work, such as hydrological and geological measurements, had started at the construction site without approval from Sepa.
Sepa deputy director Zhu Guangyao said the impact assessment was still being reviewed and large-scale changes would be made to the original proposal.
According to Ms Chen, the reconciliation agreement between the activists and Sepa is expected to be reached this week.
'We will agree to work together to push for a solution to the environmental problems in the building of the Nu River dams,' she said.
'Sepa is expected to lay out specific responsibilities for local authorities and power plant developers to release relevant assessment reports and enlist public participation,' she said.