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Yunnan's water woes: Dams and Dianchi

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The Lancang River in Xishuangbanna
The Lancang River in Xishuangbanna

Defending the dams
A report issued today by Xinhua states that Southeast Asian
countries downstream of the Lancang/Mekong River will not feel any influence from the hydropower stations built on the river, which is known as the Mekong in Southeast Asia. There are hydropower stations on the Lancang - as it is known in China - at Tianshengqiao, Manwan and Dachao Mountain.

Yunnan University Asia International River Center chief scientist He Daming states that it is 'unscientific' to say that what happens upstream on the Lancang in China influences all of the downstream areas of the Mekong. Mr. He continues, saying that assessment of dam construction on internationally flowing rivers is 'very complicated' and warned against trying to politicize the issue.

Yunnan University Natural Resources, Environment and Geosciences Institute expert You Weihong also downplays the effects of existing dams on the Lancang, saying that the drying up of the Mekong and its tributaries north of Vientiane, Laos is a result of climate change.

Despite the 80-km benzene slick that flowed into Russia from China last year, it might be reassuring to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to read that China is going to such lengths to allay concerns about the future of the waters of the Lancang/Mekong.

Dianchi 'spill'
That reassured feeling probably won't last long after reading this Xinhua report describing a dredge charged with cleaning up superpolluted Dianchi Lake that was actually dumping used oil into the lake, creating an oil slick 100 mu (18,200 square meters) in area. Located on the southwestern edge of Kunming, Dianchi is China's sixth-largest freshwater lake.

Poor Dianchi. GoKunming's older Kunming friends often recall how they swam in the lake in their youth. Now one cannot get

close to the lake without being overpowered by the stench of pollution and untreated sewage that is being pumped into
it. Swim in Dianchi? Forget about it. Few and poor are the locals who dare eat fish caught in the lake. In this site's humble opinion, Kunming's success at transforming itself into a modern international city should be tied to the results (and sincerity) of its attempts to clean up Dianchi. It's got a long, long way to go.

(Image: My Life in Kunming)

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