China’s hydro dam ambitions and their consequences


Hydropower dams are a source of debate in the environmental and international relations communities alike. China has made use of hydropower in the past to supplement its reliance on coal and other energy forms, and in total the country has 40 percent of the world’s large hydro dams. While the power from electricity-producing dams is relatively clean, the construction and placement of the massive pieces of infrastructure has long-term ecological consequences and severe impacts for communities downstream.

This week on the Sinica Podcast, Kaiser and Jeremy chat with Stephanie Jensen-Cormier, China Program Director for the NGO International Rivers, about the consequences of China’s aggressive building of large dams and other issues related to rivers in China – and to Chinese involvement in international dam building projects. She shares bad news, but also some surprisingly good news.


Stephanie: River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future, a book by Richard Mallet that discusses the Ganges’ cultural and economic importance. She also recommends Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Laureate who started the Green Belt movement.

Kaiser: The audiobook for David Tod Roy’s translation of The Plum in the Golden Vase. The narrator, George Backman, has a perfect voice for the story, and performs it with decent Chinese pronunciation.

Jeremy: Mortality, Christopher Hitchens’ last book. Jeremy insists that despite the bleak subject matter, it is a good, short, and enjoyable read.