China builds major hydropower project in Tibet, raising environmental concerns again

China’s move to build massive hydropower projects inside Tibet has recently reignited concerns about environmental issues there. As China works to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060, authorities in Beijing are looking to some of the most inhospitable areas of the Tibetan Plateau to help meet its carbon emissions targets using hydropower, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on May 25. But scientific institutions and scholars are concerned that building hydropower projects on the Tibetan Plateau will cause further damage to the natural environment.

Maureen Harris, project director for the river conservation group International Rivers, said the dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo River are destroying fish species and water distribution, causing bank erosion, loss of agricultural productivity and other livelihood problems for downstream communities.

China is reportedly planning to build a massive hydroelectric power plant on the Yarlung Tsangpo River that will generate three times the power of the Three Gorges Dam. And since the Yarlung Tsangpo River is located in the upper reaches of India, India is also very sensitive to China’s hydropower project.

The region is not only prone to massive landslides and strong earthquakes, but is also close to the disputed border between India and China, the report said. Experts believe it could be the most dangerous mega-construction facility ever built, meaning any major Chinese project could further exacerbate tensions between India and China, the world’s two most populous countries.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon, and hydropower is the country’s second-largest source of energy after coal generation, producing almost one-fifth of its total energy output. While China’s commitment to carbon emission reductions is a major step forward in its quest to address climate change, hydropower dams are also coming under increasing criticism for their impact on river ecology and for trapping sediment downstream.