06/12/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing bans new plants if they do not generate clean energy

Two energy companies, China Huaneng Group e China Huadian Group, are accused of damming a river without approval to build hydro-electric plants.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In an unprecedented move China’s Environmental authorities have issued a ban on the expansion of the mainland's two biggest power companies, the China Huaneng Group, and China Huadian Group. The Ministry’s website, which reported the decision yesterday, indicated that only environmentally-friendly power plants would go ahead. It also announced that economic development could no longer occur at the expense of the environment, even in a time of economic crisis.

Combined, China Huaneng Group and China Huadian Group generated nearly 20 per cent of the mainland's total electricity production last year but have been charged with violating environmental regulations and acting without regard for the environment.

Huaneng was accused of damming the Jinsha River in January, without ministry approval, to build its Longkaikou hydropower plant.

Also in January Huadian dammed the Jinsha to build its Ludila hydropower plant, also without approval.

Huaneng also deviated from its original design in the construction of one of its biggest coal-fired plants in Inner Mongolia, using water rather than air to cool its generators, without regard for the dwindling water supply in the arid region.

Without proper facilities, design or management to deal with environmental issues, both hydro-electric power projects will negatively impact on the environment and the economy of communities along the river that are highly dependent on fisheries, Ministry spokesman Tao Detian said. Further studies on the environmental impact of hydropower plants on the middle reaches of the Jinsha River are needed.

For Zhao Yi, dean of the school of environmental science and engineering at North China Electric Power University, the ban on the China Huaneng Group and the China Huadian Group is unprecedented.

Sources told Xinhua that the government is more careful about how public funds are being used so that they can go towards developing more environmentally friendly energy supplies.

Until recently China’s economic growth has been pursued with little or no concern for the environment. Industrial groups have been able to accumulate profits at the expense of rural communities which are left to pay the price in terms of personal health as well as environmentally degraded local economies. This in turn has been a source of social unrest.

Still after so many years of neglect the population has become very sceptical about the central authorities’ actual intentions with regards to the environment.

In fact as a result of yesterday’s announcement share prices of all listed companies in which the Huadian Group holds equity fell very little, in a range of 0.23 to 1.91 per cent.

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