China’s Environment Ministry has suspended the construction of two hydropower dams in the upper Yangtze River region, claiming the work has broken environmental laws.

The ministry said the work at the dams has been suspended as necessary environmental assessments had not taken place.

The hydropower dams are part of a projected CNY200bn hydropower project conducted alongside the Jinsha River tributary in southwest China.

The Environment Ministry said that energy companies, Huadian Power International Corp and Huaneng Power International, have begun blocking the middle reaches of the river in January 2009.

“To protect the management of the environment and to punish the violation and illegal acts regarding the environment, the Environmental Ministry decided to suspend the construction projects in the middle reaches of the Jinsha River,” said spokesman Tao Detian.

Tao further added that the dams have large impacts on communities both upstream and downstream, so companies must take into consideration the ecology of the Lijiang area.

The Chinese Government plans to construct 12 hydropower projects along the 1,423-mile Jinsha River, which flows from northern Qinghai province down to Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

The electricity output from these stations is equal to the output from the massive Three Gorges Dam in central China.