(TibetanReview.net, Jan 17) – China has admitted that a hydropower station on the Yarlung Tsanpo river in Tibet will affect the environment but said the benefits outweigh the harm. “The hydropower projects will increase job opportunities in the region and boost its economy,” the official Shanghai Daily Online (China) Jan 17 quoted Niu Li, an energy official at China’s State Information Center, as telling Bloomberg News from Beijing. “The region itself may need more power as well, although the hydropower plants may affect the local environment.”
The report cited Shu Yinbiao, vice president of State Grid Corp of China, as saying that an initial study showed that a section of 150 km of the river could accommodate hydropower stations with a total capacity of 70 gigawatts, or about 10 percent of the PRC’s overall generating capacity.
“If built, the hydropower stations would have to transmit electricity to east or central China via new ultra-high voltage lines spanning at least 3,000 kilometres,” Shu was quoted as saying. State Grid plans to spend more than 100 billion yuan to build ultra-high voltage electricity lines over the next three to four years, he has added.
Yarlung Tsangpo is the world’s highest major river, with an average elevation of about 4,000 meters, and China is the world’s second-biggest energy consumer.
The river flows eastward across south Tibet before breaching the Himalayas as it bends round the 7,782-meter-high Namcha Barwa. It then enters India, where it is known as the Brahmaputra. After merging with the Ganges in Bangladesh and forming the world’s largest delta in the process.
India and Bangladesh are seen likely to be severely affected by any Chinese damming of the river for generating electricity.