China starts operating world’s second-largest hydropower dam despite environmental damage warnings

China has partially started operating the world's second-largest hydropower station even after receiving environmental damage warnings. But in what way is it going to impact India and its other neighbouring countries? 

Created On: Jun 28, 2021 19:40 IST
World's second largest hydropower station in China
World's second largest hydropower station in China

China began operating the world’s second-largest hydropower station on June 28, 2021. The Chinese officials have hailed it as a milestone towards Beijing’s carbon neutrality goals, despite the warnings of the environmental damage.

According to the state media, the 289 meter- (948 feet) high Baihetan Hydropower Station in Southwest China, second in the world only to the country’s Three Gorges dam in terms of power generation, has started operating partially from June 28.

In recent years, China has been on a hydropower building spree as it races to meet the ever-growing energy needs of the world’s largest population.

While congratulating on the latest achievement, the President of China Xi Jinping stated that he hoped that the plant will be able to make a greater contribution towards achieving the goals of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality.

China’s pledge in 2020 to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 had also added urgency to the construction.

World’s second-largest hydropower dam in China: Key details

Baihetan Hydropower Station has been built with a total installed capacity of 16,000 megawatts.

The dam will eventually be able to generate enough electricity each day once to meet the power needs of 5,00,000 people for an entire year.

The hydropower dam in China spans a deep, narrow gorge on the upper section of the Yangtze, the longest river in China, on the earthquake-prone border between Sichuan and Yunnan Province.

The trial run of Baihetan Hydropower Station on June 28 also coincides with the celebrations of the Communist Party’s centenary this week.

Why environmental groups have warned against the dam?

The environmental groups have warned for years that the dam-building will disrupt the habitats of rare plants and animals, which will include the critically endangered Yangtze Finless Porpoise.

As per the paper published in Elsevier’s Science of the Total Environment Journal, the dam construction on the river has changed the composition of sediment in the water which has caused hydrophysical and human health risks affecting the Yangtze River Basins downstream.

Implications of China’s dam on neighbouring countries:

The massive engineering projects have also displaced hundreds and thousands of local communities and have prompted concerns in the neighbouring countries.


The planned mega-dam of China in Tibet’s Medog County, which is set to surpass the Three Gorges Dam in size, has been described by the analysts as a threat to the Tibetan Cultural Heritage. It is also a way for Beijing to effectively control a substantial portion of India’s water supply.


The impact of the dams on China’s portion of Mekong has also raised fears that irreversible damage will be inflicted upon a waterway that feeds 60 million people downstream as it winds through the Vietnamese delta.

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