China Introduces New Rules for Hydropower Development

The hydropower development laws and regulations just announced by the Chinese government stipulate that when the relevant government departments review the environmental impact report, “there are no explanations for the adoption and non-adoption of the public opinions and their reasons, or the reasons for not adopting public opinions are clearly unreasonable. ” The review team should recommend returning the amendment.

According to the Interim Measures for the Review of River Hydropower Planning Report and Planning Environmental Impact Report jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the National Energy Administration, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, the review of public opinions must be reviewed when reviewing the hydropower plan. And the effectiveness of the improvement measures. All major hydropower planning projects need to be reviewed and approved by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The National Development and Reform Commission is responsible for planning approval. The Ministry of Environmental Protection is responsible for the approval of environmental impacts.

“Public opinion is very important for hydropower development. In the past, hydropower developers paid insufficient attention to public opinions and did not pay attention to obtaining public support for hydropower.” Zhang Boting, deputy secretary-general of the China Hydroelectric Engineering Society, said that democratic society must pay attention to public opinions.

Shi Lishan, deputy director of the New Energy Division of the National Energy Administration, said that “public participation” is a requirement of laws and regulations, and it is also an important foundation for the development of hydropower planning. “Public engagement” takes various forms, including inviting stakeholders and non-governmental organizations to participate in discussions, convening forums, listening to opinions and suggestions, and fully absorbing many forms including questionnaires and hearings. Suggestions.

Shi Lishan said that after China introduced the "Environmental Impact Assessment Law" in 2003, the Chinese government, industry, and experts made many explorations of the issue of hydropower environmental assessment. However, in the EIA review, there has been a lack of standardized procedures, no clear requirements and uniform standards. The “Provisional Measures” clarifies the review principles, review procedures and organizational forms of the river hydropower planning report and the planned environmental impact report, with the purpose of ensuring the objectivity, impartiality, and scientificity of the review.

Objectiveness, impartiality, and scientificity are also reflected in the relevant provisions of the “Provisional Measures” on the composition of experts in the review panel. According to the Interim Measures, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, together with the National Development and Reform Commission, convened a review team composed of representatives of relevant departments and experts to review the environmental impact report of hydropower planning. The number of experts in the review team was not less than the total number of experts in the inspection team. One in a minute.

The "Provisional Measures" also stipulates that the experts of the review team shall randomly select from the list of relevant professional and industry experts in the expert list of environmental impact assessment experts established by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in accordance with the law, and shall include environmental impact assessment, hydrology, water resources, water environment, and ecology. Experts on biodiversity, geological environment, planning, etc.

In addition, the Development and Reform Commission will also set up a member of the hydropower planning report review expert database. “The expert bank will establish and improve through certain procedures and management methods, and widely select experts with representativeness in the field of industry and representation of different opinions in order to avoid tendencies. Guaranteed to listen to various opinions," said the person in charge of the New Energy Division of the National Energy Administration.

Gu Hongbin, deputy chief engineer of the China Hydropower Engineering Planning and Design Institute, said that the "Provisional Measures" can ensure that opinions of the public, local governments and experts are fully heard in the decision-making process of hydropower development planning.

Guo Qiaoyu, project manager of the Yangtze Conservation Project of the United States Nature Conservancy said that it is an encouraging news to determine the need for public participation in the form of laws and regulations. However, in order to truly exert the effectiveness of public participation, it is necessary to refine and introduce corresponding rules in the implementation. For example, the question of the questionnaire and how to answer the question of how the crowd is designed is more reasonable, the form and time of the hearing of the EIA report hearing, and the degree of information disclosure of the EIA report.

At the suggestion of environmental protection groups and relevant stakeholders, China has shelved a series of controversial river hydropower plans including the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Nu River and the reach of the Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Jinsha River. Hydro-power planning approvals are basically in a state of stagnation.

Experts in the industry believe that the “Provisional Measures” clearly stipulates the authority, procedures, and standards for the review of hydropower development projects, which is conducive to China’s orderly advancement of the overall work of hydropower construction. At present, despite the fact that China's 12th Five-Year Hydropower Development Plan has not been formally released, it is widely expected by the industry that China will start 160 million kilowatts of hydropower during the 12th Five-Year Plan period to achieve the goal of energy conservation and emission reduction by 2020. China has more than 200 million kilowatts of hydropower installed capacity.

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