Rivers without Boundaries

New Regulation on Evaluation of River Hydropower Plans issued in China

NDRC Environmental Protection Department

Developing and Reforming Energy [2011] No. 2242

Provisional Measures for the Evaluation of River Hydropower Plans (RHPs)[1] and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs)

Chapter I: General Provisions

1) These measures are designed to regulate the evaluation of River Hydropower Plans (RHPs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). Its principles guide both procedure and form, ensuring objectivity, impartiality, scientific quality and accordance with state laws and regulations, while taking into account the specific peculiarities of hydropower planning.

2) These measures are intended for use on hydropower projects planned for important rivers, including large rivers, transboundary rivers and rivers along provincial borders (including state borders). The National Development and Reform Commission, or NDRC, will decide which rivers fall into these categories.

3) Projects on important rivers and river segments are the fundamental basis for the hydropower development, and their plans should be carried out in comprehensive coordination with the principles of ecological protection, overall efficiency, harmony between man and nature and the promotion of sustainable economic and social development.[2] The EIS is an integral part of any hydropower project. It should predict and analyze all impacts that a project might have on the environment. It should propose countermeasures to prevent or reduce the environmental impacts of a project, and an EIS should draw a clear conclusion.

4) The NDRC is responsible for the initiation, management and evaluation of RHPs on important rivers and river stretches. The Ministry of Energy is responsible for managing the business and organizing the implementation of RHPs. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is responsible for evaluating EISs in collaboration with the NDRC.

5) The NDRC hereby delegates to Hydro China Corp. the responsibility of organizing the bidding process for the preparation of RHPs and EISs. Hydro China Corp. will also be responsible for coordinating the preparation of those documents and controlling their quality.

6) Within 30 days of an RHP’s completion, Hydro China Corp. should submit the RHP and EIS to the NDRC and submit the EIS to the MEP.

The Ministry of Energy will organize experts as needed to evaluate technical issues in the RHP.

7) The evaluation process should ensure objectivity, impartiality and scientific quality.[3] The evaluation of its RHP and EIS should be the main basis for approving or denying a plan.

Chapter II: Evaluation of River Hydropower Plans (RHPs) and Environmental Impact Statement (EISs)

8)The RHP and EIS should be reviewed according to national environmental protection laws governing economic, social and environmental sustainable development. Taking into consideration characteristics of the river basin and the specific features of the RHP, this evaluation should comprehensively examine the impacts of a proposed project on relevant regions and on the productivity and structure of the river basin’s ecosystem. It should examine direct and indirect impacts on the environment and on human health, as well as the interrelation among economic, social and environmental benefits resulting from the project.

9) The MEP in conjunction with relevant departments of the NDRC will convene a panel of experts and representatives from relevant departments to review and give written comments on the EIS. Before the review, if necessary, they will organize a site visit, expert consultations, discussion seminars and other preparatory steps.

10) Experts from relevant professional backgrounds (hydrology, water resources, water environment, ecology, biodiversity, geological environment, etc) should be randomly selected from the MEP’s EIS expert database. Experts (not holding government office) should account no less than one half of panelists.

The MEP actively manages the EIS expert database, adds experts from relevant backgrounds and solicits suggestions from NDRC.

11) The review panel should ensure an objective, impartial, scientific, comprehensive review of the EIS and produce recommendations which include the following aspects:

(a) basic quality assessment, data validity, reliability and representativeness

(b) utility and appropriateness of the evaluation methods used;

(c) reliability and appropriateness of environmental impact analysis;

(d) effectiveness and appropriateness of suggested prevention and mitigation measures;

(e) the extent to which project planning has taken public opinion into account, and the effectiveness of changes made in response to public criticism, if any such changes have been made;

(f) the scientific validity of EIS conclusions;

(g) the project’s social, economic and environmental sustainability; the proposed plan’s feasibility and ways to optimize it; and alternatives to implementation of the proposed plan.

Recommendations should be supported by at least by three-quarters of review panelists. Panel members who have different opinions shall truthfully record those (in the same document)

12) Given either of the following conditions, the review panel must reject a project’s EIA:

a) Given present level of scientific knowledge and technology, it is impossible to predict the extent/severity of the negative environmental impacts resulting from the project.

b) Implementing the plan would have a medium or large negative impact on the environment, and available methods can neither prevent nor mitigate those impacts.

13) If, during review of the EIS, the panel identifies one of the following circumstances, the review team should recommend that it be returned for further amendments:

(a) the basic quality of the EIS is low, or its data is invalid;

(b) the evaluation methods were inappropriate;

(c) the EIS was shallow, inaccurate, underdeveloped or invalid for another reason;

(d) the suggested prevention and mitigation methods are seriously flawed;

(e) the EIS conclusions are unclear, unreasonable or wrong;

(f) no attached materials describe the extent to which the project accommodates public opinion, or the reasons stated for not adapting the project to public opinion are distinctly unreasonable;

(g) the EIS has another major obvious deficiency or gap.

14) Within 30 days of the MEP receiving the EIS, the NDRC will arrange for its evaluation. According to evaluation recommendations, Hydro China Corp will organize relevant bodies to improve, change and add to the RHP and EIS and submit relevant documentation to the NDRC and MEP.

15) When evaluating and approving the RHP, the NDRC should adopt conclusions from the EIS and recommendations from the evaluation panel. The NDRC should provide a written justification for any suggestion that it chooses not to adopt, and that justification should be archived for future use.

Chapter III: River Hydropower Plan Review

16) The review of an RHP should be based on relevant state laws, regulations, policies and technical standards. This review should be carried out with attention to the requirements of integrated water use for economic and social development, engineering and technical conditions, reservoir inundation and resettlement, environmental impact, engineering investment and the efficiency of generation, social benefits, and so on.

17) The NDRC and relevant agencies establish a database of hydropower planning experts. The database should include experts on hydrology and sediments, geology, water environment, water resources, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, economics, planning, immigration, shipping, hydraulics, electricity, construction cost, power systems, macroeconomics, energy policy research and management experts.

18) The NDRC is responsible for convening representatives of relevant ministries and provincial government representatives from areas affected by the project to form a leadership examination group. This group will coordinate the review process. The head of the expert review panel (see item 19 below) will be the leader of this group.

The NDRC hereby delegates to the Hydropower and Water Resources Planning Institute the responsibility of organizing the actual review work, organizing expert groups and developing review recommendations. The Hydropower and Water Resources Planning Institute should organize a site visit for relevant ministries and experts in advance of the review meeting.

19) Experts from relevant professional backgrounds should be randomly selected from the River Hydropower Planning expert database maintained by the NDRC.

20) Review meetings should normally include a general statement, assessment by experts, and the General Assembly may consider other procedures. Professional groups may be subject to peer-review. The review meeting should take into account the views of all parties.

21) Recommendations produced by the review meeting should cover the following issues:

a) the appropriateness and comprehensiveness of the planned river development;

b) assessment of the conditions in hydrology, geology, reservoir inundation, resettlement, environmental protection etc. as related to the proposed development;

c) with regard to national economic development needs, comprehensive utilization of water resources,[4] engineering and technical conditions, resettlement, environmental impact and other aspects, assess the appropriateness of the proposed development, development scale and method of development, as well as the feasibility of the plan;

d) the extent to which the RHP has incorporated EIS conclusions and adopted recommendations from the evaluation panel.

e) the reasonableness of the project’s implementation and recommendations for next steps.

22) Under any of the following circumstances, an RHP shall not be approved:

(a) RHP conclusions are incorrect or incomplete, can not meet the basic requirements for comprehensive utilization of water resources;

(b) data on the hydrology, geology, reservoir inundation, ecological environment and other basic information is not reliable, is unrepresentative or is inadequately scientific;

c) the cascade structure is unsafe, and no effective preventive measures are available;

d) the cascade design is not cost-effective, or other economic aspects of the project are lacking or mistaken;

e) the plan has no EIS or its EIS has not been evaluated properly;

f) RHP preparation procedures do not meet the requirements of hydropower planning.

23) After the review meeting, the Hydropower and Water Resources Planning Institute will report within ten days to the NDRC on the situation of the evaluation and recommendations from the meeting.

24) The NDRC will consider an RHP for approval based on national needs for energy and socioeconomic development, the plan itself, the EIA conclusions, recommendations from the review process, and relevant national policies and regulations.

Chapter IV: Assessment of Changes in RHPs

25) If an approved RHP is significantly amended during implementation phase, it should be subject to a new evaluation of RHP and EIS as outlined in these measures.

26) The NDRC hereby entrusts to the Hydropower and Water Resources Planning Institute the responsibility of tracking the implementation of hydropower planning and carrying out in a timely manner additional verification and evaluation.

Chapter V: Penalty

27) Those responsible for managing the preparation of plans should comply with all relevant laws and invite bids for the preparation of the RHP and EIS in a scientific, equitable and reasonable way. In the case of bribery or fraud, relevant staff with be investigated on administrative charges. If their actions constitute a crime, implicated staff members will be investigated on criminal charges, as the law dictates.

28) The organizations responsible for evaluation the RHP and EIS should act in accordance with laws and regulations. If any of the following circumstances are discovered, the National Development and Reform Commission may cancel the commission and make the appropriate punishment:

(a) major failures in the review of the RHP;
(b) poor quality of review results;
(c) review process conducted in violation of the provisions of this act;
(d) other violations of state laws and regulations during review.

29) Expert testimonies should be based on the scientific, objective and fair attitude of expert who agrees to participate in the review. The review process should proceed without any interference so that experts are independent and responsible for any views they express. In the case of a violation of professional ethics, favoritism or a violation of national laws, experts may be reprimanded or may have their expert qualifications canceled, depending on the severity of their misdeeds.

Chapter VI: Supplement

30) The evaluation of RHPs for rivers other than designated “important rivers” can also follow this methodology.

31) The NDRC and MEP are responsible for interpretation of this document.

32) These measures are enacted on the date of their publication -December 27, 2011

Unofficial translation by Green Earth Volunteers and Rivers without Boundaries


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