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Trouble on the Yangtze

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Science  20 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6079, pp. 288-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6079.288

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Last month, preparatory work began on the Xiaonanhai Dam, with more projects to follow. Within a few years, the Jinsha will slow to a sluggish pace and its temperature will drop as a series of large hydropower dams release cold bottom water from their reservoirs into the river. For species already threatened by the Three Gorges Dam downriver, ecologists say, the new dams will take away their last refuge. Last year, the central government solidified plans to increase China's reliance on non–fossil fuel energy from the 2010 level of 8% to 15% of the energy mix by 2020. Nearly two-thirds of that target will come from hydropower—an increase on par with adding nearly one Three Gorges Dam a year. Ecologists say China's hydropower push will threaten already-taxed ecosystems in the upper Yangtze.

  • * Jane Qiu is a writer in Beijing and London.

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