Controversy over the development of the Nujiang Dams, China


Description
Between March and June of 2003, the Huadian Group and Yunnan provincial government established the Yunnan Huadian Nujiang Hydropower Development Corporation, which would be in charge of building “two reservoirs and thirteen dams along the middle and lower reaches of the Nujiang” [1].
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Basic Data
NameControversy over the development of the Nujiang Dams, China
CountryChina
ProvinceYunnan
SiteNujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Water
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project Details"[The] series of thirteen hydroelectric barrages on the river...was expected to generate revenue of 34 billion yuan ($5.4 billion) per year" [3]. According to the 2003 "Nu River Middle and Lower Reaches Hydropower Planning Report...[the proposed dams would have] a total installed capacity of 21.32 million kilowatts and an annual power output of 102.96 billion kilowatt-hours" (ibid).
Level of Investment (in USD)13,580,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population50,000 people potentially displaced (mainly ethnic minorities)
Start Date13/08/2003
End Date29/01/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesYunnan Huadian Nujiang Hydropower Development Corporation from China
Relevant government actorsWen Jiabao, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the State Council, the Ministry of Water Resources, the National Development and Reform Commission
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEJOs: Friends of Nature, Global Village Beijing, Green Earth Volunteers, Green Watershed, the Institute for Environment and Development, Brooks Education Institute, Wild China Films, International Rivers; Prominent activists/individuals: Yu Xiaogang, Wang Yongchen
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherThe impact of China’s energy hunger will be felt beyond its borders. Some 7 million people in neighboring Burma and Thailand live in the Nujiang’s lower basin, which would almost certainly be affected by the construction of five dams upriver. Beijing’s unilateral change of course reveals a disregard for China's smaller, southern neighbors, American University’s Shapiro says.

“Sadly, the Nu River dams also represent China's big-power disrespect for the equitable sharing of water with downstream neighbors in Southeast Asia,” she says, “where China's control of the headwaters of the major rivers that provide livelihoods to millions is creating a deep sense of unease" [7].
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao called a halt to the project to order further impact assessments as required under a then new environmental law
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao called a halt to the project to order further impact assessments as required under a then new environmental law. Chinese green groups celebrated a rare victory over unrestrained growth. But some of the leading critics of the dam proposal, such as Yu Xiaogang, who runs a Yunnan-based environmental group, and Wang Yongchen, a journalist in Beijing who co-founded one of the country’s first environmental NGOs, questioned whether the project was truly killed or merely postponed. [...] So it was little surprise that China’s State Council, the central administrative body chaired by the Premier, moved late last month to lift the ban on damming the Nu River and gave Sinohydro the go-ahead for five dams including the Liuku and Saige sites. In particular, the Songta dam, the farthest upriver and the only structure on the Nu in Tibet, has been approved for construction by 2015, notes International Rivers, a U.S.-based environmental NGO [8].
Sources and Materials
References

[1] Lin, T.C. (2007). Environmental NGOs and the Anti-dam movements in China: A social movement with Chinese characteristics. Issues & Studies, 43(4), 149-184.
[click to view]

[6] Büsgen, M. (2006). NGOs and the Search for Chinese Civil Society: Environmental NGOs in the Nujiang Campaign. The Hague: Institute ofSocial Studies, Working Paper No. 422.

[2] Dore, J., & Yu Xiaogang. (2003). China plans to dam the Nu/Salween River. Watershed, 9(2), 4–5.

[3] Boyd, O. (2013). The birth of Chinese environmentalism: Key campaigns. In S. Geall (Ed.), China and the environment: The green revolution (pp. 40-95). London: Zed Books.

[4] Wells-Dang, A. (2012). Civil society networks in China and Vietnam: Informal pathbreakers in health and the environment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

[5] Mertha, A. (2008). China’s water warriors: Citizen action and policy change. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Links

[8] Chinese Environmentalists Lose Fight to Stop Nu River Dams
[click to view]

[7] Environmentalists struggle to stop Chinese dam project
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford
Last update05/02/2015
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