China Datang Corporation
Datang is a state-owned enterprise and China’s second largest domestic power producer. In recent years, Datang’s total generation capacity has been growing rapidly. In 2009, its generating capacity increased by 20 per cent from the previous year to 10,017 MW. Datang’s primary focus has been on coal-fired power, but higher costs due to rising coal prices have pushed Datang towards alternative power generation.
Over the past two years, Datang has been restructuring to reduce the number of subsidiary companies to concentrate on energy generation infrastructure.
Three of Datang’s subsidiaries have shares traded on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges (Datang International, Hunan Huayin Electric, and Guangxi Guiguan Electric Power).
Leading the pack?
On paper, Datang is leading China’s second tier dam builders in its CSR work. However, there is no evidence that this has translated into more sustainable practices.
Datang signed onto the United Nations Global Compact in 2008 and has continued to report on its progress on an annual basis . Datang has also publicly committed to comply with international agreements signed onto by China and applicable national laws and regulations. It has published CSR reports since 2004, and since 2008, has had them quality assured by an independent auditor.
Focused on Asian Markets
Datang is focused on regional markets in Asia rather than launch into Africa and South America. Datang currently only has projects in Burma and Kazakhstan.
Datang’s first hydropower project in Burma, Taping Dam was built in Kachin state, where there was strong local and armed resistance to the project. Datang was forced to pay an extra $20 million RMB ($3.7 million USD) to the Kachin Independence Army when the army threatened Chinese workers. The payment was called described by the company as an environmental tax. Datang is also linked to the proposed dam cascade on the Salween and Lemro Rivers in Burma.
Datang and China Southern Power Grid Corporation signed a strategic cooperation agreement to jointly invest in overseas power markets, however no projects have emerged from this partnership.
Case study: Ywathit, Pawn and Thabet dams on the Salween River, Myanmar
This case study is based on the Karenni Development Research Group’s briefer on dams in the Karenni State:
In January 2010, Datang’s subsidiary, Datang (Yunnan) United Hydropower signed a MOU to build three dams in Karenni State in Burma, including the construction of the 600 MW Ywathit Dam on the mainstream of the Salween.
The dam sites are all located in conflict zones. In Burma, Chinese dam builders have not been able to escape the explosive ethnic tensions which dam construction inevitable aggravates. For example, in December 2010, a convoy of the Burmese army officers escorting engineers to the Ywathti Dam site was attacked and three people were reportedly killed. Military offensives around the Salween dam sites (particularly around the Hatgyi Dam in Karen State) have recently caused thousands of refugees to flee to Thailand. According to reports from the Karenni Development Research Group, Chinese engineers continue to require armed soldiers to enable them to access and survey the Ywathit and Pawn River dam sites.
The proposed Datang dams build will threaten the Yintale indigenous ethnic group, a sub-group of the Karenni people, which rely on the Salween and Pawn rivers for their livelihoods. Around 1,000 Yintale people remain living in around the dam sites. Affected communities have not been consulted or informed about the three proposed dams.
What you can do: tactics and strategies
Environmental or social impact assessment is not a pre-requisite for project approval in Burma. It is unknown whether any assessment of the project’s impacts has been undertaken.
Datang wants to be seen as a responsible company. Contacting company representatives directly (through a letter, phone call or visit) may be an important way to get your message across. In our experience managers at the project site have limited authority and can be unresponsive. It is more effective to contact the Beijing headquarters. Letters may also be more effective if they are copied to your local Chinese embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Contact the UN Global Compact Board members to raise your concerns and utilize the Global Compact’s grievance mechanism as a means of disputing Datang’s commitments to the Global Compacts environmental and human right covenants.