Opposition Growing to Proposed Dam in Southwest China

October 20, 2004

Public opposition is mounting in reaction to Chinese government plans to construct a hydroelectric dam along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in the southwestern province of Yunnan. The proposed plans, issued by the provincial government but lacking final approval from central authorities, would result in the flooding almost 120 miles along the Jinsha River, an upper tributory of the Yangtze. Areas affected would stretch from Lijiang to Diqing prefectures, and include the Tiger Leaping Gorge, a major tourist destination. It would also significantly impact local Tibetan and Naxi minority populations, forcing the resettlement of 100,000 people. Chinese officials indicate the project will not only allow the generation of electric power, but also permit the redirection of water to Kunming, the provincial capital. Chinese academics and NGOs have mobilized to oppose the plans, citing concerns with project planning and environmental harm to northwest Yunnan, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Provincial plans to construct a series of dams along the nearby Nujiang river, also in northwest Yunnan, were suspended this spring by the State Council after a similar outcry from environmental activists. Further information, in Chinese, is available in a report from the Southern Weekend.