As Wen Jiabao departs, China’s dam plans to accelerate | Reuters


Wen’s tenure as premier saw a number of projects shelved, with only a third of the projects identified as a priority over the 2006-2010 period actually going ahead, said Zhang Boting, the deputy head of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering, a pro-hydro group.

Among the projects vetoed by Wen were a series of dams on Yunnan’s untouched, UNESCO-protected Nu River, known outside China as the Salween, in 2005. The project has been shelved since, but it is still listed among the government’s key development projects for the 2011-2015 period.

Wen, a geologist by trade and populist by instinct, is due to step down in March 2013. But long before his departure, the tide had begun to turn. China’s latest five-year plan said 160 GW of new hydro capacity needed to go into construction over the 2011-2015 period.

“If implemented, it will result in an unprecedented dam-building push,” said Peter Bosshard, director of environmental group International Rivers, which campaigns against big dams.

The builders of several projects stalled during Wen’s tenure as premier have already begun construction even before receiving approval to go ahead. Giant power firms are preparing new multiple dam systems on the upper reaches of the Yangtze and Mekong rivers in southwest China’s Yunnan province.

The 1.9 GW Huangdeng project, one of a series of dams under construction on the Mekong by China’s biggest power firm, the Huaneng Group, is now 40 percent complete even though it hasn’t yet been fully approved, activists say.

Huaneng and other giant state-owned utilities are clearly confident that final approval will be granted quickly once the new leadership is in place.

via As Wen Jiabao departs, China’s dam plans to accelerate | Reuters.


The Golden Triangle: The long arm of Chinese law | The Economist

IT WAS a gruesome crime. In October last year 13 bodies—blindfolded, hands tied, showing bullet wounds—were found floating in the Mekong river in northern Thailand. They were identified as the Chinese crew members of two cargo boats hijacked as they made their way downriver from Yunnan province in south-western China. This week, in a court in Kunming, Yunnan’s capital, Naw Kham, a Burmese drug lord, and five of his associates were sentenced for the murders.

The crimes drew attention to the lawlessness of the Golden Triangle—the intersection of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, where opium is grown and refined into heroin, and methamphetamine is produced on an industrial scale. Drug lords rule the roost, sometimes in league with the security forces.

These murders made China determined to act. It set up armed patrols to protect shipping, even downstream on the Mekong, south of its border. These carry token representatives from other countries, but they are a Chinese exercise. It has had some effect, but river-borne traffic is sharply down, with more cargo travelling more arduously by land.

via The Golden Triangle: The long arm of Chinese law | The Economist.

China Completes Bridge on Burma Pipeline Route

A bridge on the Mekong River in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province was completed on Wednesday, marking a major step in the completion of a Sino-Burmese gas pipeline project that is expected to go into operation next year, according to a report by Xinhua. “The bridge is a key part of the pipeline and one of the most difficult engineering projects, given the complicated geographical conditions,” said Hu Hanzhou, general manager of China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group Co Ltd, the builder of the bridge.

via China Completes Bridge on Burma Pipeline Route | The Irrawaddy Magazine.

China building massive energy lifeline through Myanmar

HSIPAW, Myanmar — The Sino-Burmese Pipeline is a massive, $2.5 billion project intended to ensure China’s energy security well into the 21st century. It follows the Burma Road up from the Irrawaddy River plain through the Shan Hills and finally, into China.

When completed, the pipeline’s double-barreled conduits will annually deliver 22 million tons of oil and 12 billion cubic meters of gas to destinations within China’s Yunnan Province.

Much of this will be used to alleviate the severe oil shortages that strike the fast-growing Yunnan with increasing regularity. The rest of it will be processed and refined inside the region, then shipped on to other, equally oil-thirsty regions within China.

via China building massive energy lifeline through Myanmar.

China concerned for Mekong frontier security in Yunnan

Zhou Yongkang, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said during an inspection tour of Yunnan between Oct. 27 and 29 that public security bureaus should strengthen border inspection and crack down hard on drug smuggling and terrorism.

Zhou’s visit came just over a month after a Myanmar drug runner and five of his gang members stood trial for the murders of 13 sailors on the Mekong River in the Golden Triangle Region on Oct. 5, 2011. Naw Kham, the principal suspect, pleaded guilty to murder in a local court in Yunnan.

With a length of almost 5,000 km, the Mekong is one of the most important waterways in Southeast Asia, linking China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It plays a crucial economic role among the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries.

Cargo ferry services, though briefly suspended following the murders, resumed on the river in December last year.

China has conducted joint patrols on the Mekong River with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand since the murders took place, said Zhou, adding that the patrols ensure shipping safety and showcase China’s innovative efforts in promoting international police cooperation.

via Senior official urges frontier security in Yunnan-

Thai man nabbed with 16 tiger cubs in truck

A Thai man has been arrested with 16 tiger cubs in his pick-up truck while driving near the kingdom’s border with Laos, police said Saturday.

The 52-year-old was arrested Friday afternoon in Khon Kaen province in northeastern Thailand during a routine check by authorities, who found the cats, aged between six weeks and two months, in cages in the back of the vehicle.

Thailand, a hub of international smuggling, is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.

via Phuket News: Thai man nabbed with 16 tiger cubs in truck.