China’s policy on dams at the crossroads: removal or further construction?

Chiyuan Miao, Alistair Borthwick, liu honghu, Jigen Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: During the past century, the number and scale of reservoirs worldwide has grown
substantially to meet the demand for water and hydropower arising from increased population,
industrialization, and urbanization. This is particularly the case in China, where reservoir
construction increased rapidly after the Chinese economic reform and the introduction of
open-door policies. On average, 4.4 large reservoirs with a capacity greater than 0.1 km3 were
constructed per annum during the 1970s–1990s. This average reached 11.8 such reservoirs per
annum in the 2000s. Considering the adverse impact of dams on rivers and riparian communities,
various environmentalists and non-governmental organizations in China have begun to protest
against the construction of dams. Now China’s policy on dams is at a crossroads: Removal or
further construction? In this paper, we systematically assess the construction of reservoirs in China
and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of large-scale reservoir projects on several major rivers
in China: The Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Mekong River. Lastly, we provide a
perspective on the future of reservoir development in China, taking into account natural
conditions, renewable hydropower resources, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • reservoir
  • Natural Resources
  • eco-environment
  • China


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