By Du Caicai and Li Rongde
Yunnan, March 25, 2018
“It’s like a haircut that has gone awry in the hands of an absent-minded barber.”
That’s how many locals described the environmental scars that have been left by construction of the Huilongshan Hydropower Station inside a tropical rainforest in southwestern China’s Yunnan province since October 2015.
Trees have been felled and vegetation cleared upstream along the Xiaohei River in Yunnan’s Xishuangbanna prefecture to make way for a dam, leaving what looks like an open wound in the once pristine rainforest. Xiaohei River feeds the Luosuo River, a major tributary of the Mekong River.
But, Yunnan province is grappling with a hydropower supply glut due to decades of dam development along the Mekong. Fourteen dams have been built along the section of the Mekong River flowing through Yunnan since the first Manwan Hydropower Station was built in 1995, decimating habitats, several conservationists told Caixin.
This has added fuel to the already fierce opposition from scientists and advocacy groups who accuse local authorities of approving the project despite a flawed environmental impact assessment. Critics say the project will damage a natural reserve upstream, which is home to endangered species such as the Asian elephant, and a downstream reserve for tropical aquatic animals.