China’s Prime Minister Unexpectedly Suspends Dam Project

Well, knock us over with a feather. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has just suspended — pending further study and review — the massive hydroelectric dam system planned for the Nu River, which runs through an unspoiled, richly biodiverse area in western China dubbed a World Heritage Site by the U.N. The dam was opposed by China’s nascent environmental movement, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the State Environmental Protection Agency, but few observers held out much hope that the project could be stopped. Wen’s move seemed to signal a new concern for environmental protection on the part of the Communist government. In a written order, Wen said, “We should carefully consider and make a scientific decision about major hydroelectric projects like this that have aroused a high level of concern in society, and with which the environmental protection side disagrees.” Chinese enviros and scientists were shocked and pleased. Said professor and dam opponent He Daming, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like this ever happening before.”