Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 4 News List

China is likely to change dams plan

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BEIJING

A government environmental review has recommended reducing the number of dams included in a controversial hydropower proposal on the Nu River in southwestern China to limit environmental damage and decrease the number of people who would be resettled, a Hong Kong newspaper has reported.

The Wen Wei Po, which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, reported on Wednesday that the recommendation called for four dams instead of the 13 in the original Nu proposal. The article, citing an unnamed source close to the governmental review, said fewer dams would still meet "the needs for economic development and environmental protection."

The project, which has been delayed for nearly two years, will now be presented to the National Development and Reform Commission, a powerful government ministry, and later to the State Council, or China's Cabinet.

But the article also suggested that 13 dams had not been completely ruled out. The source described the four dams as "a pilot proposal" and said more study would be needed to assess the larger project.

The original Nu River proposal, which would generate more electricity than the huge Three Gorges Dam, has become an international controversy. Environmental groups inside and outside China have called for more openness and public input in deciding whether to go forward on the project.

The environmental assessment report cited by the newspaper has itself become a point of contention with a number of influential groups calling for the release of the report as well as public hearings on the project.

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