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Tiger Leaping Gorge dam, Yunnan, China

A successful campaign to protect the Tiger Leaping Gorge ran from 2004 to 2006. In 2007 campaigners managed to stop the dam project, saving a magnificent landscape and also the homes of ethnic minority peoples.


This is the story of how Tiger Leaping Gorge (hu tiao xia) dam  was stopped,  drawn from an excerpt from Liu Jianqiang's book,  China and the Environment: The Green Revolution [1]. Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River , located 60 kilometres north of Lijiang City. It is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site. The Jinsha is the upper stretch of the Yangtze River in Yunnan Province, means “Golden Sand” in Chinese.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Tiger Leaping Gorge dam, Yunnan, China
State or province:Yunnan
Location of conflict:Lijiang
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Incommensurable values came into dispute: on the one side, the electriciy and the money from a 2,500 MW project, and on the other side the beauty of the scenary together with the unique local culture. The project was under discussion and had been suspended in 2004 and was scrapped in December 2007.Y In Yunnan you have the Nujiang (or Salween), which crosses later on into Myanmar and ends in the Indian Ocean; the Mekong, which flows into the Chinese Sea after a long journey in the south of Vietnam; and last the young Yangtze River, which accompanies the other two southward for a while, and then turns abruptly eastward at the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge to make its way through China to the shores of Shanghai.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000
Start of the conflict:2003
Relevant government actors:SEPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
NDRC, National Development and Reform Commission
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Green Watersheds
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Journalists. Naxi people.
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
March 21, 2006, farmers seized a group of seven surveyors and held them hostage (3). Famous documentary, Waking the Green Tiger, produced [6] [7].
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Pressure from public opinion through the press, help from professionals, complaints by villagers, international protests, stopped this project. However, by 2019, there are reports [4] that at the highest level Tiger Leaping Gorge dam, now baptized as Longpan dam, has been authorised for construction. In 2019, the central planners of the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, People’s Bank and National Energy Board issued a long list of projects to proceed, including many dams on Tibetan rivers, the biggest being Tiger Leaping/Longpan.
Tiger Leaping Gorge is now Longpan 龙盘. The Baidu online encyclopaedia explains why the name change: “In order to avoid public doubts, the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hydropower Station was renamed Longpan Hydropower Station.” [4]
Sources & Materials

[1] How Tiger Leaping Gorge was saved. Liu Jianqiang. 19.04.2013. China Dialogue
[click to view]

[2] South China Morning Post. Yunnan scraps Tiger Leaping Gorge dam. Shi Jiangtao. Dec, 2007
[click to view]

[3] Saving Tiger Leaping Gorge: A Reflection. 08/26/2015. -By Legeng Liu
[click to view]

[5] The Guardian 29 Dec 2007. China abandons plans for huge dam on Yangtze. David Stanway in Beijing.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[click to view]

[6] Chinadialogue assistant editor Zhang Chun interviewed the director of Waking the Green Tiger, Canadian filmmaker Gary Marcuse, and Shi Lihong, an independent Chinese producer who helped make the film.
[click to view]

[7] Waking the green tiger: the rise of China's green movement. Zhang Chun. 04.12.2013. The opposition to the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam was a seminal moment for China's environmental protection movement, says director of a documentary on the campaign.
[click to view]

Other comments:The documentary film Waking the Green Tiger describes how the media, NGOs and locals joined forces to block construction of a dam at Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Jinsha River in Yunnan - a campaign seen as a turning point for China’s environmental movement. "Even if you filled the gorge with gold it wouldn't be worth the loss of the river or our homes." [6] [7]
Meta information
Last update20/08/2019
Conflict ID:4393
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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