The Chinese Government’s “Guidelines for Environmental Protection in Foreign Investment and Cooperation” (“Guidelines”) provide civil society groups with a new source of leverage when it comes to holding Chinese companies responsible for their environmental and social impacts overseas. In the form of the new Guidelines, the Chinese government has sent a strong signal to its companies that it expects them to act responsibly and lawfully when operating overseas.
Last week, I sat in Washington in a Senate Hearing Room to give a testimony on the grim situation facing China's rivers. Alongside Elizabeth Economy - a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and Jennifer Turner - Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's China Environment Forum, we laid out the frightening and significant water challenges that China is facing. Unlike many at the US-China Economic and Security Commission hearing, I left feeling optimistic and inspired, which begged me to ponder what is the basis of my optimism? Do I just have a bad case of blind faith?Click here to view the full video
Chinese dam builders at work on Three Gorges DamWe are currently aware of 289 overseas dam projects in which China is involved. For the large part, most of these projects have been proposed and/or built in the past 10 years. With the help of our fantastic new program assistant, Songqiao Yao, we have updated almost every entry of this dams list to ensure that the information we provide is more accurate and complete. But of course our usual disclaimer applies.
What was destined to be Southeast Asia's biggest hydropower dam, the $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam Project on the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River, has been stopped by the "people's will." On September 30th, the President of Burma, Thein Sein told his Parliament that he had suspended the Chinese developed project because of public concerns of the devastating effects of the dam on the Irrawaddy River.
Myitsone Protest (courtesy of the BBC)
The success of Burma's civil society groups in halting the Myitsone Dam may come as a surprise to many, but it is a product of the depth and strength of opposition to the project. It is also an indication that a different type of Burmese government is now in charge. The Burmese government's decision to suspend the controversial project on the headwaters of the Irrawaddy also highlights the serious risks of not engaging with civil society critics. The Myitsone Dam was one of the first projects to really "get under my skin" here at International Rivers. The environmental and social impacts were simply unbelievable. The Myitsone Dam was to generate some 6,000 megawatts of power – of which the majority was to be sent to China – while creating a reservoir the size of Singapore with a depth of a 66-story building. 12,000 Kachin people were expected to be relocated to make way for the dam and up to 20,000 would have been affected by its construction and operation.
Having worked in the Australian Prime Minister's Department and now at International Rivers, I've found myself in a panic about what I call "bad things" on three occasions.* Given the current rate of biodiversity decline and scale of environmental disasters, it sadly takes a lot to make it into my bucket list.The Myitsone project on the confluence of the N'Mali and Mali Rivers, and the start of the mighty Irrawaddy River, is one of three things which have stressed and for lack of a better word to describe the emotional impact, freaked me out.
Authorcontemplating vowel pronunciationIt was just a little under a year ago that I joined International Rivers' China program, so it seems timely that this post reflect on one of the biggest revelations of the year past. But lets keep this professional and I'll spare you stories such as discovering that on moving to the United States from Australia I am unable to pronounce my name (Grace). Australians have a tendency to swallow their vowels.
Protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them.
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