Yangtze dam threatens 60 species of fish

The Three Gorges Project Corporation is about to build some new dams on the upper Yangtze, the environment be damned (no pun intended).

[E]nvironmental groups have warned that the new dams could wipe out fish species whose migration routes to traditional breeding grounds will be blocked. Subjecting these concerns to scientific scrutiny, 13 students from Sichuan University’s Environmental Protection Volunteer Association conducted intensive fieldwork in the region between July 2004 and February 2005. They concluded that as many as 60 fish species could be driven to extinction after construction of the four dams, especially Xiluodu and Xiangjaba. Species under threat include the endangered Chinese sturgeon (Zhonghua xun), white sturgeon (bai xun), Yangtze (or Dabry’s) sturgeon (dashi xun) and rouge fish (yanzhi yu).

The students also drew attention to the fact that the dams are to be built in an area that had been set aside as a national rare-fish conservation zone. In 1987, the State Council designated a 500-km section of the river between Hejiang and Leibo counties as the National Yangtze Rare Fish Reserve Zone. Under China’s Environmental Protection Act (Section 3, Article 17), which came into force in December 1989, no industrial enterprises or infrastructure projects likely to cause environmental damage can be built in scenic spots, nature reserves or other special areas designated by the central or provincial governments.

To get around this barrier, the Three Gorges Project Corp. asked the State Council to redraw the boundaries of the conservation area to exclude the heart of the zone ร the stretch of the river between the future Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba dams.

The State Council agreed to the request in April 2005, relocating the protected fish zone to an area downstream of Xiangjiaba, thus clearing the way for the dams to be built.

The fish, meanwhile, haven’t moved — and, indeed, species cannot be shifted without consequence from a niche carved out over millennia. The new reserve zone is a bit bigger than the original area, but the extra space will be no consolation to the fish, the students pointed out. The original zone reflected the true boundaries of the traditional breeding and feeding grounds of rare species such as the white sturgeon and Yangtze sturgeon.

In a recent article, Prof. Chen Guojie, senior researcher at the Chengdu Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, also warns that the spawning zones of such species will be almost totally obliterated if Xiangjiaba is built.

I really like the part about redrawing the borders of the protected zone to accommodate the construction. It’s reminiscent of BushCo falsely inflating the number of wild salmon by including farmed salmon in the fish count. If you don’t like the situation, just redraw the parameters around it and pretend it’s whatever you want it to be. But you’re only fooling yourself; it’s of little consequence to the fish.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Threatening 60 species is the least of worries surrounding this project.

grr..don’t get me started.

December 21, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

Ah yes, the 3 Gorges Dam…the disaster that keeps on giving…

December 22, 2005 @ 1:26 am | Comment

It’s a mistranslation of “Three Stooges Dam”

December 22, 2005 @ 1:40 am | Comment

Hey! Don’t worry! I’m sure the government has done studies, citing plenty of unnamed scientists that prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the dams will be eco friendly. And if they haven’t, they will soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

December 22, 2005 @ 7:21 am | Comment

Did anyone notice as reservoirs projects expand, the drought worsens in China.

How’s that as a new concept for film, tentatively named “Chinatown 2010”?

December 26, 2005 @ 12:22 am | Comment

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