China plans to build more than 20 dams along the country’s longest river by 2020, it announced today.
The Yangtze river already has the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Three Gorges Dam.
China is looking to hydropower as an alternative to move away from coal, which provides more than 70% of its energy supply.
Hu Siyi, the vice minister of water resources, announced the plans during a forum in Shanghai that called for hydropower projects on the tributaries and upper reaches of the Yangtze.
But scientists have questioned the effect of big dams on the environment and some have reported problems.
A recent Chinese Academy of Sciences report said the Three Gorges Dam is harming water quality and ecosystems of the wetlands as well as fish stocks.
Climate change is also likely to reduce the river’s water supply because rainfall has decreased every year since 2006, it said.
Cai Qihua director of the Yangtze Water Resources Committee said that the government plans to use 60% of the river’s hydropower resources by 2030.
China boasts the world’s largest hydropower resources at a theoretical potential of 540 million kilowatts.
The Three Gorges Dam produced enough electricity to supply about 9% of China’s electricity consumption last year.
Hydro projects will be developed in the upper reaches of the tributaries, including on the Yalong, Dadu and Wujiang Rivers.