Hydropower stations in Chongqing join ecological protection

A full view of Dianjiang county, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality. Photo by Xiang Xiaoqiu, People’s Daily Online

By Wang Binlai, Jiang Yunlong, People’s Daily

Hydropower stations in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality now have a new function – lifting local ecology, and have achieved remarkable results.

Gao’an hydropower station is located on the bank of Longxi River, Gao’an township, Dianjiang county of Chongqing which mainly focused on power generation and completed production according to assigned task load, according to Fu Peng, head of the power station.

Longxi River is a major tributary to the Yangtze River on the northern bank, as well as the mother river of Dianjiang county. Four years ago, large quantities of pollutants were released into the river, severely damaging the ecology of it and degrading the water quality to the lowest level.

To tackle the problem, Dianjiang cooperated with Liangping and Changshou, two neighboring counties, to strengthen ecological protection of Longxi River. Through breaking down administrative barrier, the three counties have jointly carried out dozens of ecological restoration projects.

The Dianjiang section of Longxi River is 98 kilometers in length and home to five hydropower plants. If the five sluice gates are all closed, the river becomes stagnant and led to decreasing aquatic species, according to Tan Jun, general manager of a local hydropower development company.

The power plants were not administered by the county, and their sole responsibility was to generate electricity, the amount of which was smaller than needed for promoting economic and social development, said Pu Binbin, secretary of the Party committee of Dianjiang county.

To solve the problem, Dianjiang carried out a reform, renting the five power facilities after negotiations. Afterwards, the minimum task of power generation for the five plants was replaced by a cap. It also assigned the power plants with missions such as cleaning up floating garbage from the river, protecting water environment in the river and releasing hatchlings into the river.

The annual generating capacity of the five power plants has been reduced to 15 million kilowatt hours, less than half of the amount before, Fu introduced, adding that the requirements on ecological protection have been lifted.

Now, the power plants start to work only when the water level rises above the dams, and the gates are always open to guarantee sufficient water to sustain the ecosystem of the river, Fu introduced, adding that thanks to these efforts, the water quality of Longxi River has reached Grade III, and more fish are found in the lower reaches of the river.

“Before, we only produced electricity. Now, ecological protection is on top of that,” Fu disclosed, adding that they are also responsible for cleaning up floating pollutants and investigating and punishing companies which secretly discharge pollutants into the river.

Dianjiang county has employed three trash collecting boats to clean the river. The trash, such as dead tree branches and leaves, are prevented from floating away by buoys and diverted to the boats, where they are dried, smashed and packed for further disposal. The cleaning team, established by the power plants, has removed 900 tons of garbage from the river in four months, making the river cleaner.

Now, before turning on the machines, Fu always checks if the water volume of the river is at a normal level – a prerequisite for power generation.

“Though having heavier tasks and more work to do, we think the efforts are worthwhile as the plant now plays a more important role,” said Fu.

Two workers clean floating garbage on Longxi River in Dianjiang county, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality. Photo by Xiang Xiaoqiu, People’s Daily Online

Villagers row a cleaning boat along Longxi River in Dianjiang county, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality. Photo by Xiang Xiaoqiu, People’s Daily Online