Nepal earthquake highlights dangers of dam building in Tibet

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    Hydropower development in Tibet is fraught with huge risks because of the danger of major earthquakes. What’s more, the projects might not be needed, say experts.

    Although the precise picture is still unclear, it’s likely that Nepal’s huge earthquake last month has wreaked major damage to a dozen hydroelectric projects in Nepal.

    This should sound a shrill warning for projects across the border in Tibet, an area also traversed by highly active seismic faults.

    Last November Tibet’s first major dam, at Zangmu, started generating power, marking the start of large-scale hydropower in Tibet.

    Besides the risks to existing and future hydroprojects in Tibet, centred mainly along the Yarlung Tsangpo river (known as the Brahmaputra once it reaches India), there is little evidence that the dams are actually needed, says Fan Xiao, geologist and chief engineer of the Regional Geological Survey Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau.

    Fan told thethirdpole.net that the region doesn’t have the population, the economy, or necessary demand for electricity. Although the power generated could be sold to the rest of China, or to neighbouring India and Nepal, the economics of the projects are compromised by costs high the high cost of transmitting the power, much of which would be wasted, given the distances involved.

    Add to that the damage to Tibet’s geology, environment and social structures, and the cons outweigh the pros, Fan adds.

    Meanwhile, in Nepal, there are no hard facts on how badly the dams there have been hit by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake. Lu Chun, chairman of the Three Gorges Corporation, said that relief efforts were taking priority over an immediate evaluation of the damage.

    Although the precise picture is still unclear, it’s likely that Nepal’s huge earthquake last month has wreaked major damage to a dozen hydroelectric projects in Nepal.

    This should sound a shrill warning for projects across the border in Tibet, an area also traversed by highly active seismic faults.

    Last November Tibet’s first major dam, at Zangmu, started generating power, marking the start of large-scale hydropower in Tibet.

    Besides the risks to existing and future hydroprojects in Tibet, centred mainly along the Yarlung Tsangpo river (known as the Brahmaputra once it reaches India), there is little evidence that the dams are actually needed, says Fan Xiao, geologist and chief engineer of the Regional Geological Survey Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau.

    Fan told thethirdpole.net that the region doesn’t have the population, the economy, or necessary demand for electricity. Although the power generated could be sold to the rest of China, or to neighbouring India and Nepal, the economics of the projects are compromised by costs high the high cost of transmitting the power, much of which would be wasted, given the distances involved.

    Add to that the damage to Tibet’s geology, environment and social structures, and the cons outweigh the pros, Fan adds.

    Meanwhile, in Nepal, there are no hard facts on how badly the dams there have been hit by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake. Lu Chun, chairman of the Three Gorges Corporation, said that relief efforts were taking priority over an immediate evaluation of the damage.

    Source : The Third Point