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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid