BEIJING (Reuters) - The Huadian Corp will go ahead with controversial plans to dam the Nu River in southwest China as it strives to raise its total hydro capacity by 10 gigawatts before the end of 2015, the official China Daily reported on Tuesday.
The report said the company, one of China’s big five state-owned utilities, plans to raise its total hydroelectric capacity to 26 gigawatts by the end of 2015, up from 15.38 GW at the end of last year and accounting for 8 percent of the national total, the report said.
As well as the Nu River, located in southwest China’s Yunnan province and also known as the Salween, the company is currently drawing up plans to build dams on the Jinsha River, the upstream section of the Yangtze.
The Nu is one the country’s few remaining undeveloped rivers and has been regarded as a cause celebre by Chinese environmentalists.
Plans to dam the river have been on hold since 2003 amid concerns about the fragile local environment as well as the impact on downstream communities, including those in Myanmar and Thailand.
The head of Yunnan’s Communist Party, Bai Enpei, told Reuters in March that no dams and reservoirs would be constructed on the river until feasibility studies have been completed and approved.
China is now planning to build 140 GW of new hydropower capacity in the next five years as part of its efforts to raise the proportion of non-fossil fuel energy to 15 percent of its total energy mix by 2020, up from around 8 percent now.
The total potential hydroelectric capacity of the Nu River is estimated to stand at around 42 gigawatts, but geologists have warned that large-scale dams and reservoirs could add to earthquake risks in the region and cause havoc to local ecosystems.
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Jacqueline Wong