A vast network of financiers, construction companies and regulatory bodies drive global hydropower development. Chinese companies currently control 70% of the world’s hydropower investments. Over the years, we have built a strong foundation to engage effectively with hydropower companies and government bodies, as well as activists, researchers and environmentalists.

“[H]ydropower…could impact more than 300,000 kilometers of rivers by 2050. Despite the enormous diversity in size, scale and geography of roughly 3,700 new dams being proposed or built, a relatively small number of corporations are responsible for their construction. Thus the policies and practices of these companies have tremendous implications for rivers and human rights.”

HydroScorecard [Source]


China is the largest hydropower developer globally. Chinese companies and banks are building and financing hydropower projects and energy systems around the world, and the country’s infrastructure investments are impacting river systems in Southeast Asia, Africa and, to a growing extent, Latin America.

We engage with the major hydropower companies to examine their global investment practices and how these investments impact communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We have measured how the companies’ records compare with each other, and with international best practices.

The first phase of our 2015 benchmarking project aimed to develop relationships and open dialogue with Chinese hydropower companies on their social and environmental policies and practice and adherence on the ground. We did this with the development of the HydroScorecard, which compared and ranked Chinese companies’ policies and practices in 2015. The  2019 “Watered Down” report analyzed the performance of companies investing abroad against international best practice standards. 

In 2021, a forthcoming report will examine the performance of Chinese hydropower companies with respect to biodiversity. We are pushing for policy changes and accountability in both their domestic and international projects.


Financiers and companies who build dams have a reputation for being difficult to engage; for not adhering to social, environmental and human rights standards; and for failing to dialogue with local communities and civil society. It’s vital that we scrutinize their actions and demand accountable, transparent processes.

In Asia, major river basins we work to protect, including the Mekong, Salween and Brahmaputra, originate in China. They’re currently experiencing tremendous threats from water scarcity due to upstream dams and infrastructure and suffering from a lack of governance frameworks to manage transboundary river basins in particular.

Quick Facts

  • China’s expanding global presence means it’s investing in infrastructure projects in 112 different countries. [Source]
  • Investments in hydropower carry an extraordinarily high level of debt, placing host countries at political and economic risk.
  • According to the China Energy Engineering Group, Chinese enterprises represent 70% of the global hydropower market. [Source]

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