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Thu, Jan 20, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Beijing halts 30 big construction projects

VARIOUS CONCERNS The violation of environmental protection regulations was one of the reasons that building was stopped at power projects and dams

AP , SHANGHAI

A ship clears silt along the Yangtze River in Chongqing, China, in this file photo of Oct. 20 last year. There are about 530 million tonnes of silt cleared every year in the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze River. Chinese experts said the river suffers from serious pollution but it was not clear whether building was stopped at this sitet.

PHOTO: EPA

The Chinese government has ordered a halt to construction at 30 big construction projects, including two at the massive Three Gorges Dam, due to alleged violations of environmental protection regulations and other concerns.

Twenty-six of the projects are power plants being planned in 12 different provinces, part of a rush to boost the nation's generating capacity amid severe electricity shortages, many of them expansions of existing coal-fired plants.

But others are new projects. One is a cardboard factory. Two are roads, including a section of a highway meant to stretch all the way from Tibet in the far southwest to China's northeastern border with North Korea.

Many of the projects had not complied with requirements for environmental impact assessments or other authorizations, the State Environmental Protection Administration said on its Web site in ordering a work stoppage.

The administration official who announced the decision, seen yesterday, said some might be allowed to resume but that others would be canceled.

Late last year, the government said it was stepping up controls on investment in power plants, saying many were being launched without legal approvals. It estimated the capacity of unauthorized power plants under construction at 120,000 megawatts, or about 30 times national generating capacity.

Three of the largest projects stopped by the State Environmental Protection Agency are under the aegis of the Three Gorges Project Development Corp, the company responsible for constructing the Three Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River.

Two are auxiliary power facilities connected with the dam, the world's largest hydropower project, while the third, on the Jinshajiang River, was part of a massive plan to develop the hydropower resources of the upper Yangtze.

Known as the Xiluodu Dam, the Jinshajiang project is part of what is being billed by China as a "second Three Gorges."

It was unclear if the suspension of construction pending approval of the Jinshajiang project's paperwork would deter plans for Xiluodu.

The US$22 billion Three Gorges project went ahead despite criticism of its high financial and social cost and complaints about its environmental impact.

Though China has been rushing to boost generating capacity, officials have said they expect current widespread shortages to ease within a year or two and that the level of investment now will result in capacity far exceeding expected demand.

The government has similarly sought to curb construction of cement and aluminum factories, among a number of industries it says are growing too quickly, risking financial problems later.

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