China draws rules to spread benefits of hydropower

by Reuters
Friday, 15 March 2019 06:00 GMT

SHANGHAI, March 15 (Reuters) - China will take steps to ensure that residents affected by the construction of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs will be given bigger stakes in projects and the profit will be distributed fairly, the country's state planning agency said on Friday.

In the new guidelines, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said it would "establish a long-term mechanism for sharing the benefits of hydropower development among migrants, locations and enterprises."

Though considered a form of clean energy, hydropower in China has been controversial, with some of the country's largest projects blamed for causing large-scale environmental damage and social disruption, mostly in the southwest.

NDRC promised to improve the distribution of income and ensure that projects contribute to local economic and social development as well as poverty alleviation.

With much of China's remaining hydropower potential located in remote ethnic minority regions in Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan, it also promised to better respect the customs and religions of local communities.

China's total hydropower capacity hit 350 gigawatts last year, accounting for a fifth of total generation, but its reliance on large and disruptive dam projects has been controversial.

The pace of construction has been slowing, with developers put off by rising costs. The China Three Gorges Project Corp, which has built some of the country's biggest dams, has already ruled out new domestic projects.

The displacement of residents is regarded as one of the biggest challenges, and accounts for around half the total cost of a project.

During the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the government allocated billions of yuan to relocate around 1.3 million residents, but it has acknowledged that some of the funds were embezzled or misused.

In 2011, China admitted the massive dam project had caused widespread social and environmental damage, and promised an additional 124 billion yuan ($18.46 billion) to rectify geological and environmental risks and alleviate deep-seated poverty in the region.

However, half of the promised funding still has not been disbursed, and many migrants continue to live in poverty, said Xie Deti, hydropower expert at China's Southwest University and parliamentary delegate for the city of Chongqing.

"Problems such as making the reservoir zone migrants settled and well off, protecting the environment and preventing geological disasters have still not been properly solved," Xie said in a proposal to parliament this week. ($1 = 6.7186 yuan) (Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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