Conservation news

The dam-maker: China involved in 289 dam projects worldwide

China is currently involved in 289 hydroelectric projects worldwide, as reported by International Rivers. Most of the dams are planned for hydropower, and over half are considered ‘large’ projects. The list includes completed dams, one currently under construction, and ones in early planning stages.

While dams are often considered ‘green’ power, those in the tropics emit significant greenhouse gases from vegetation rotting in hydroelectric reservoirs. In fact, a recent study found that a dam in Lao PDR still produced greenhouse gas emissions a decade after it was constructed. However, such energy projects still emit considerably less than China’s current power of choice: coal.

By changing river flows, hydroelectric projects also impact fish populations and threaten local livelihoods. In some cases people are forced to move to make way for the river’s new flow or the reservoir.

Not all of China’s dam projects are foregone conclusions. Last month, a massive Chinese-sponsored dam in Myanmar was tabled by the government after local protests. The Myitsone Dam would have been built on the head of the Irrawaddy River with 90 percent of the energy being diverted China. Currently, China is planning 7 dams on the Irrawaddy.

Nearly half of China’s hydroelectric projects are in Southeast Asia with 30 percent in Africa, a continent where China’s influence is rising.

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