- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China plans to build more than 20 dams along the country’s longest river by 2020 as part of a plan to further develop the Yangtze River’s hydropower, an official said Tuesday.

The river already has the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam. China is looking to hydropower as an important alternative to help it move away from coal, which provides more than 70 percent of the country’s energy supply.

Hu Siyi, the vice minister of water resources, announced the plans during a forum in Shanghai that called for hydropower projects on the tributaries and upper reaches of the Yangtze, a notice on the Web site of the Ministry of Water Resources said.

But environmentalists and scientists have questioned the effect of big dams on the environment, with some reporting problems.

A recent Chinese Academy of Sciences report said the Three Gorges Dam is harming water quality and ecosystems of the wetlands as well as fish stocks, the official China Daily newspaper reported Monday.

Climate change is also likely to reduce the river’s water supply because rainfall has decreased every year since 2006, it said.

Cai Qihua, director of the Yangtze Water Resources Committee, was quoted by the newspaper as saying Tuesday that the government plans to use 60 percent of the river’s hydropower resources by 2030. Only 36 percent of those resources were currently being used, he said at the forum.

China boasts the world’s largest hydropower resources, the paper said, at a theoretical potential of 540 million kilowatts.

The Three Gorges Dam has produced enough electricity since 2003 to supply about 8.8 percent of China’s electricity consumption last year, the official Xinhua News Agency said this month.

Hydro projects will be developed in the upper reaches of the tributaries, including on the Yalong, Dadu and Wujiang Rivers, the China Daily said.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects date to 2030 sted 2060 in graf 7)

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