News / Asia

    Environmentalists Call for Transparency in Chinese Dam Projects

    A general view shows the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river in Yichang in central China's Hubei province (file photo)
    A general view shows the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze river in Yichang in central China's Hubei province (file photo)

    Environmentalists say China needs to be more transparent as it rapidly expands its domestic and international hydropower program.  The call for openness, made Tuesday by two influential NGOs, comes amid criticism of China's controversial dam-building projects on rivers flowing from the Himalayan region.

    Southeast Asian countries are not the only nations that fear an ever thirsty China could trigger natural disasters, hurt the environment, ignore human rights and divert water supplies.

    China's accelerating program of damming every major river flowing from the Tibetan plateau has sparked fears in towns and Asian capitals from Pakistan to Vietnam.

    But Chinese banks and hydropower construction companies are also causing concern in other parts of the world, such as Africa, where they are involved in projects for profit.

    Peter Bosshard, policy director of the environment NGO, International Rivers, says while big Chinese investment banks such as ICBC claim to be environmentally and socially responsible, smaller Chinese enterprises are more reckless.

    "We have seen movement from the biggest actors, but smaller companies, which can be very big state-owned enterprises in their own right or private companies, tend to hide between the market leaders."

    Though China is not alone in disrupting Himalayan water flows, suspicions are heightened by Beijing's lack of transparency and refusal to share most hydrological and other data.

    Moreover, China has in the last decade come to dominate the global hydro power sector. Another dam causing widespread alarm is the Gibe III Dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia, which is being funded by China's ICBC bank.

    Environmentalists say if completed, the dam will devastate ecosystems and livelihoods of indigenous people in the lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia and Lake Turkana in neighboring Kenya.

    Bosshard said other international banks refused to fund the dam.

    "These projects still go ahead and the Chinese companies do not respond to civil society concerns. There is still a culture with very little transparency and consultation," explained Bosshard. "We saw a new guideline on anti-corruption from the State Council last December when they say sunshine is the best antiseptic, and transparency offers the best supervision of power. But in our experience in such projects, there is still often a complete lack of transparency and consultation, particularly with civil society groups in the hosts countries, which need this access most."

    Johan Frijns works for the NGO Bank Track, which scrutinizes international investments by the world's big banks.

    He also called on Chinese investment banks to open up their hydropower interests to the public.

    "We call on Chinese banks to enter into a dialogue with our counterparts here in China, with international networks, with NGOs working on the environment, working on human rights and working on a great many issues, as all the other banks in the world have done so far," Frijns said.

    It is in Southeast Asia where China's thirst for water and environmental footprint is most keenly felt.

    Local communities and environmentalists are worried the dams will trigger natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies such as fish supplies, and divert vital water supplies in the world's most heavily populated and thirstiest region.

    On the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, almost 20 dams have been built or are under construction while some 40 more are planned or proposed.

    China strenuously denies it is irresponsible in its dam building.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Beijing always considers downstream countries when choosing dam projects and would never harm their interests.

    He says China pays great attention to the impact these projects might have on resources, the environment and ecosystems, and takes the concerns of downstream countries into consideration.

    He says China is a responsible upstream country and will never harm the interests of downstream countries.

    A few analysts and environmental advocates speak of water as a future trigger for war or diplomatic strong-arming. Bosshard said such a threat is hypothetical and a last-resort "nuclear" option for Beijing. But he said once complete, China can use its dams in any way it chooses.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.