An official from the Qinghai Planning Commission said: ‘The Huangheyuan hydro power plant has been forced to stop operation due to the severe shortages of water on the Yellow river early this year. Maduo County, which depends mainly on the plant, has suffered a great deal.’

Despite the water shortage a new hydro plant for Laxiwa Gorge on the Yellow river, also in Qinghai, has been approved by the government. A spokesman for the China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) said: ‘We mainly engage in hydro power development on the upstream of the Yellow river. There are already several hydro power units in good operation with nice returns. The Laxiwa project is one of them, and we believe in its prospects. The water shortage problems on the Yellow River have a long history. However, on the whole, this year has not been that bad compared with previous times. The Lijiaxia hydro power plant, with four units each of 400 MWe, was already in commercial use in late 1997, and has been operating smoothly.”

Meanwhile, the Gongboxia hydro power plant, on the same river, has started to store water. After three years of construction, the power project – which is a major part of China’s West-to-East Power Transmission Project – will have a reservoir capable of storing 620 million cubic metres of water. Gongboxia will have an installed capacity of 1.5GWe. The first unit was due to start generating at the end of August 2004. Electricity produced by the plant will help meet an increasing power demand in northwest China and will help promote the West-to-East Power Transmission Project.