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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
Alarm sounded for Yangtze River
By Louisa Lim
BBC correspondent in Beijing

Chinese white dolphin (July 2002)
The Yangtze is home to some extremely rare dolphins
A new report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) says China's Yangtze River faces a greater environmental threat from dam building than any other river.

The WWF also criticises China for having more dams planned and under construction than any other country.

In recent years, most of China's top leadership have been engineers and they have left their mark on the landscape with a series of gargantuan dams.

Chief among these is the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest in the world.

These dams are prestige projects designed to show man's mastery over nature and provide electricity to a power-hungry country.

'Little benefit'

The WWF's report highlights the Yangtze as the river most at risk, with 46 large dams planned or under construction there.

These could destroy the habitats of endangered species on the river, including the Yangtze River dolphin, of which only a few dozen remain.

The report warns that communities downstream suffer when dammed rivers run dry and fish stocks are decimated.

These are the fears that many have voiced with regard to Chinese plans to build 16 new dams on the Salween River, which flows into Burma and Thailand.

The WWF says this would have a devastating environmental impact, and it is urging Beijing to carry out a full assessment.

China has 88 dams under construction and at least 36 more planned.

But even China's top hydro-electric engineer has expressed his doubts about some of his work, accusing one dam of causing disastrous floods and admitting that ordinary people had benefited little from the Three Gorges Dam.

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