Chongqing’s biggest dam to start construction

Chongqing’s biggest hydropower development is set to begin construction after adjustments to a fish conservation area on the Yangtze river were agreed to by the State Council.

The Xiaonanhai dam will be 45 meters high, and will have an electricity generation capacity of 1700 mW. The project will flood an area of nearly 70 hectares, including an island on the Yangtze which is currently home to over 6,000 farmers.

The project is expected to create around 400,000 migrants by the time it’s complete. The project will cost 37 billion RMB, making it Chongqing’s largest ever single investment. The position of the Yangtze River Fish Conservation Area was the final barrier to construction of the dam, but after the State Council agreed to adjust the size of the area, this barrier was removed.

The main motive behind the project is to combat shortages of electricity in rapidly-expanding Chongqing, where electricity demand is predicted to grow by 10 percent over the next five years. There is speculation that the Chongqing government feels it does not derive enough benefit from the Three Gorges Dam, since it made big investments in the project, but receives less electricity from it than neighboring provinces. Several NGOs have stated their opposition to the dam. A staff member of Chinese NGO Friends of Nature said that the project was expensive and inefficient, since generation costs per kW are estimated to be three times as expensive as the Three Gorges Dam. Local farmers were reported to be unaware that drilling teams have already moved into the area to start investigatory work.

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