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World's highest river to power China

CHINA, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, may build hydropower plants on Tibet's Yarlung Tsangpo, the world's highest major river, to meet long-term energy demand, the country's dominant distributor of electricity said yesterday.

An initial study shows that the river can accommodate hydropower stations with a total capacity of 70 gigawatts, or about 10 percent of the nation's overall generating capacity, Shu Yinbiao, vice president of State Grid Corp of China, said.

The river, with an average elevation of about 4,000 meters, passes through one of China's poorest regions.

"The hydropower projects will increase job opportunities in the region and boost its economy," Niu Li, an energy official at China's State Information Center, told Bloomberg News from Beijing.

"The region itself may need more power as well, although the hydropower plants may affect the local environment."

The region plans to invest 21 billion yuan (US$3 billion) in 22 industrial projects, including 10 in mining, Li Xia, Tibet's commission director, said on September 5. The projects are expected to generate revenue of about 18 billion yuan and provide jobs for almost 15,600 people.

Yarlung Tsangpo flows eastward across south Tibet before breaching the Himalayas as it bends round the 7,782-meter-high Namcha Barwa.

The river then enters India, where it is known as the Brahmaputra. After merging with the Ganges in Bangladesh and forming the world's largest delta in the process.

The river empties into the Bay of Bengal.

"Recently China conducted an assessment of water resources on Yarlung Tsangpo, and the study shows a section of 150 kilometers that can accommodate 70 gigawatts of hydropower capacity," Shu said.

China's power generating capacity rose 10 percent to 792 gigawatts by the end of last year, the Beijing-based China Electricity Council, which represents the nation's power producers, said on January 5.

Consumption increased 5.2 percent to 3.43 billion megawatt-hours.

"If built, the hydropower stations would have to transmit electricity to east or central China via new ultra-high voltage lines spanning at least 3,000 kilometers," Shu said. State Grid plans to spend more than 100 billion yuan to build ultra-high voltage electricity lines over the next three to four years, he added.

Earlier this month, regional Governor Qiangba Puncog said Tibet's economy may grow 10 percent this year after expanding by 10.1 percent last year.


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