Yangtze hydropower project seen as threat to rare fish

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am

A senior official with the Ministry of Environmental Protection has expressed concern over the building of the Xiaonanhaidam on the Yangtze River near Chongqing , saying it would pose a threat to rare fish.

It was the first time the ministry had commented on recent reports that Chongqing authorities were pushing ahead with the dam despite fears that it was close to a national fishing reserve.

Wan Bentai, chief engineer at the ministry, said local officials must adhere to laws and heed environmental concerns when pursuing economic development at a time of global crisis.

'There will certainly be an impact [on fish stocks],' he said, referring to the Xiaonanhai dam, proposed 700km upstream from the Three Gorges Dam and which will cost 23.9 billion yuan (HK$27.1 billion). 'But I am not in the position to tell you how big the impact [would be].'

He said whether the project went ahead would depend on the findings of an environmental impact assessment.

Although he said his ministry took no position on the project pending completion of the assessment, analysts noted that Bo Xilai, the municipality's Communist Party chief and a Politburo member, had used his personal influence to clear the way for it. Critics say the dam would not generate enough power to justify the expense of building it. But sources said the authorities in Chongqing were optimistic that the project would be approved this year.