China is planning to build at least 84 major dams in its southwest region, as shown in a map from the Wilson Center, eventually boosting its hydropower capacity by more than 160 gigawatts. By next year China’s capacity will surpass Europe’s, and by 2020 it’s projected to be larger than that of the U.S. and Europe combined.

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An interactive map shows the scale and number of major dams proposed, under construction, existing, and canceled. The dam rush is part of an ongoing effort by China to increase non-fossil energy sources to 11.4 percent of the country’s total energy consumption — a goal that has gained urgency due to severe air pollution in many northern Chinese cities. However, the hydropower push is not without its own major environmental consequences, the Wilson Center notes.

More than 70 of the dams planned or being constructed are located in so-called “biodiversity hotspots,” areas with rich species diversity that are threatened by development. The cascades of planned dams will submerge important corridors that connect tropical rainforests to the Tibetan Plateau and allow wildlife to migrate to cooler climates as temperatures rise.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

1 Comment

  1. We must attack the source of energy demand in order to save our planet. The source and heart of the problem is Human Greed; all the rest is bullshit. Our materialism, selfishness arrogance and pure ignorance has placed at the precipice of extinction.