Two interesting stories on China, one small, one large.

The small one, in the L.A. Times, is about the latest toxic river spill in China and the government’s quick and transparent response — obviously it learned some lessons from last month’s disastrous Songhua River spill.

The long one, in the N.Y. Times, is about fledgling attempts by NGOs and citizen groups in China to have a say in big development projects. Specifically, it focuses on huge hydropower projects like the one planned for the Nu River. There are also some interesting details about the country’s electricity situation.

One study estimated that China might build enough new dams, most of them in Yunnan, to double its hydroelectric output in the next five years. One plan would inundate one of the most popular tourist attractions in China – Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Part of the frenzied hydropower development is driven by the thirst for new energy supplies. But part of it is caused by the breakup of the state monopoly that once controlled electrical generation in China. That breakup left regional state-owned energy giants who were each assigned “assets” – like rivers or coal deposits. Each faces competitive pressures to develop new power plants quickly in order to claim market share.

Mr. Ma, the environmental consultant in Beijing, said environmentalists understood that China faced a complex challenge in developing new energy sources even as it must reduce pollution. But he said this intense pressure to develop was why laws that provide oversight and public review must serve as safeguards.

Lots of food for thought.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.