By WANG YongchenSummary1. Women’s love for EarthProtect the last ecological river initiating from concerning about nature andbiodiversity.2. Call on for women’s living environment initiating from concerning about thosewho live by riverside.Protect natural environment on which native inhabitants depend, as well as theirway of living and the traditional culture, by recognizing the interactional relationshipof biodiversity and cultural diversity.3. By evidence of women’s persistence and their continuous efforts in China’santi-dam movement, we can see how women take their advantages and make useof media and NGO, in order to promote government’s environmental awareness andenable EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) law to be authority in maintainingpublic’s benefits.Case Study 1:What is behind the “ Dujiangyan Dam Protection” movement:How the public could make impacts on construction decision-making?In the year of 2003, Sichuan Dujiangyan Administration planned to constructYangliuhu Dam near Dujiangyan Dam, which will be only 350 meters away fromwhere this World Culture Heritage Site exists. In order to get support, DujiangyanAdministration organized experts from different disciplines to make investigation atthe end of April. Yet, different voices appeared after the investigation. Strongopposition to Yangliuhu dam construction was heard from both experts and localofficials.In June, 10 more archeologists were gathered by Dujiangyan Administration. Thedam was going to be on progress with the approval of these scientists. At thiscritical time, WANG Yongchen, journalist of China Radio, and ZHANG Kejia,journalist of China Youth Daily, initiated their concerns and reports for theconstruction. The detailed reports on Yangliuhu dam construction was composed byZHANG Kejia and published in China Youth Daily on July 7th, which immediately
aroused wide range of concern from the public and media. More than 180 domesticand international media units kept reporting on the construction, among which99.9% were opposed to it.Ms. WANG Yongchen commented that, “It is the first time in China’s history thatthe public directly influence decision-making of a construction.” Thus, the mediasuccessfully mobilized public’s awareness in opposing dam construction.The argument continued till the end of August when Yangliuhu dam constructionwas finally denied by Sichuan provincial government.Case 2Preserve Nujiang,a FREE-RUNNING River for China and the WorldThe IssueThe Nujiang (also known as the Salween), one of the three big rivers that comprisea World Nature Heritage Site (enlisted in June, 2003 by UNESCO) - the ThreeParallel Rivers, is known for its steep and grand gorge surpassing many of thefamous canyons in the world. The Nujiang, a transnational river, originates from theSouthern side of the Danggula Mountains in Qinghai Province, runs through Tibetand Yunnan Provinces and into the Andaman Sea in Burma. However, this uniqueand fantastic river is not so well known in the world. As the most precipitousterritory on the earth, the whole Nujiang valley area still retains pristine ecologicalsystems . Little mass construction has taken place yet. Unfortunately, all these maybecome historical memories in the near future. The North China Power Company, asubsidiary of The National Power Company, is planning to construct a masshydropower facility with 13-stage stations on the river. The project design aims ata capacity of 21 MKW (million kilowatts) and expected to produce more than 100billion kwh electric energy annually.Some noted Chinese scientists from different disciplines and conservationists alikehave argued strongly against the project at several symposiums held in Beijing andKunming in the past few months (September to November, 2003.) Despite thestrong opposition to power companys project, the voices of those supporting the"economic development" overwhelmed the alternatives. Among many argumentsagainst the project, the major concerns over the negative impact of this project arethree-folds:
The irreversible impact on biological diversity along the Nujiang Valley;•Lack of legal, thorough and transparent processes of an Environment Impact•Assessment (EIA);Lack of adequate consideration on socio-economic and justice issues and•corresponding arrangements for the local residents who have to suffer in the nameof regional economic growth.One of the Last Two Eco-rivers Will Be Gone!China is by far the most dammed up country in the world. From 1949 to 1990,over 86,000 dams were built, and 22,000 of which are large dams consisting of45% of all large dams worldwide according to the World Dam Committee. As aconsequence, ONLY two large rivers still run dam-free Yalung Zangbo (orBrahamaputra, flows from Tibet into India) and the Nujiang. The richness andendemism of the flora and fauna of the Nujiang valley make it an integral part of aBiodiversity Hotspot called Mountains of Southwest China (there are currently 25hotspots in the world. See www.biodiversityhotspots.org ), which is probably themost biologically diverse place in the worlds temperate areas. Its world-classecological systems, with many plant and animal species, might disappear or beinfluenced tremendously should the construction plan be approved.The North China Power Company is planning to construct a large reservoir in Maji,an upriver area of the Nujiang. It claims it will build a highest dam in the world,300 meters high, for the reservoir. The reservoir will submerge a huge area (itwould be great if we have even a rough estimate of hac.) of pristine old-growthforestland when it reaches its full holding capacity. But even until now, noinvestigation on the biological resources and the ecological system of this regionhas been done, let alone the understanding of the environmental impact, by whomLast but not the least, the Nujiang valley is earthquake-prone for as high as 6-8on the Richter Scale. To build dams in such geologically unstable area is as if toinvite devastating disasters for the local and downstream communities.How Much Benefit Do We Get 0ut of Hydropower? Is It Truly Green?Learning from painful lessons in the past, the world today has come to a greaterconsensus that large hydroelectric power stations have proved to be not asproductive as their designs claimed, especially after internalizing their vastenvironmental and social impact. Some damage from dam construction on theenvironment is irreversible and social impacts are manifested in diverse aspects oflivelihoods and long lasting. Consequently many countries have been scaling downthe designed capacity of power plants in performance or even shutting down the
operation and deconstructing the facilities. In China, a heated debate is ongoingabout removing the Sanmenxia Dam on the Yellow River, provoked partly by therecent flooding in the upper stream as a result of this poorly designed devastatinginfrastructure. Looking from a long-term perspective, large dams are provedcatastrophic to society at large than short-term financial gains to the powercompanies in many parts of the world. Even in China, there is not one successfulexample of hypro-power dam that have served to reduce poverty in strict economicterms, of the nearby rural communities, which affected by the dams. Unfortunately,a lack of overall plan and long-term ecological perspective on Chinas riversystems and overly simplified analysis of hydropower capacity have renderedrampant exploitation of water resources possible, even on ecologically fragile andsensitive areas, like the Nujiang River.There has been a time hydroelectricity was believed to be the green energy. Butmany power-generating comparative studies have shown that hydropower could domore long-term damage ecologically to the ecosystems than a coal plant could ifcoal plant takes environmentally sound measure to bring up its production to thepollution control codes. The reservoir-submerged area causes the loss of naturalforests, grassland and wildlife (aquatic and terrestrial), and simultaneously theecological functions provided by the ecosystem as a whole will cease to performand will be irreversible. This could cause further ecological degradation oftenunpredicted prior to the dam building project. The change in the water currents willinevitably render water to be more pollution-prone. Water quality will then dropultimately. Dams also increase salination in the downstream farmlands.People use to believe that one of the big advantages of hydro power plants overcoal power plants is that hydropower emits much less greenhouse gases ?CO 2 .This is proved to be wrong Researchers after studying an hydroelectricity projectin Brazil, argued that the total ?carbon ?quantum caused by deforestation and theputrefying plants entering the reservoir, is much greater than the total CO 2generated by the coal-powered plant. In general, large dams often exerts morenegative (often irreversible) rather than positive effects on the ecosystem andbiodiversity.Environment Impact, Assessment of Arbitration?Chinas new EIA law took effect on September 1, 2003. At the time, a largenumber of environmental protection activists considered it to be a milestone forreal participatory environmental impact assessment and decision making processes.However, the Nujiangs case has evidently demonstrated that the law on EIA willnot be effective until there is a transparent and binding mechanism and room for
public participation.In the Nujiangs case, the EIA was done by a qualified evaluating institute,which is a subsidiary to the National Power Company. A case of apparent conflictof interests: a ridiculous game in which a sportsman acts as the games referee.Nujiang is the first large and controversial project since the issue of the new EIAlaw. If this law cannot facilitate a participatory and transparent decision makingprocess, while strong voices against the large dam project are not dealt withadequately, the EIA law, expected to hold accountable the mushroomingdevelopment projects in the ecologically fragile western provinces sets examplesand tunes for forthcoming hundreds and thousands of development projects. TheEIA Law is not going to be a rubber stamp!Who Decides the Fate for Our Nations Treasured Rivers?Hydropower development in China had been solely controlled by the governmentuntil recent years when loosening up of control over hydropower development haveallowed entries of private investment and greater freedom to the state-ownedpower companies. As a result, the state-owned hydropower companies in the pastfew years have been competing to mark new territories and concessions fordeveloping Chinas water system into chains of hydropower stations. It is only amatter of time, the pristine Nujiang River has fallen a potential prey to such viciousforaging for hydrological energy the banner of Greater Western DevelopmentStrategies (Xi Bu Da Kai Fa): developing local economy and restoring ecologicalsystems in the Western provinces.The central government and concerned scientists have long been warning thatWestern Development (word by word translation of the Xi Bu Da Kai Fa nationalpolicy) should not be turned into destruction in the western provinces. From 1970sto1998 when national Logging Ban policy was implemented, massive scale loggingdestroyed large area of old-growth forest in western China, and is believed to be amajor reason responsible for the vast flood on the Yangtze River in 1998.Currently Chinese government has devoted a great effort and financial resources toensure the Logging Ban, Natural Forest Regeneration, as well as Land ConversionProgram are yielding lasting and desirable ecological deliverables to the localeconomy and environment. However, the heated dam building competition runscontradictory to the call for ecological restoration in the country has becoming anpotential devastating force to drive further ecosystem degradation.Not only are these large dam projects potentially devastating to environment, butalso they are socially irresponsible and injustice to local communities. Neither
ecologists nor local residents are sufficiently involved during the planningprocesses. Key decisions on our nationally treasured rivers are made in thedark by a few hydropower companies, without sufficient transparency andmonitoring by the public and unbiased environmental and social impact assessments.Central authority on the environmental issues tried but is failing in front of thebenefit-driven groups.Lessons from the Past, Voices from the Local People.But how much of this benefit do local residents get from project that will affect therest of their lives? Looking back into the history, what happened in the LancangRiver, parallel to the Nujiang River valley is a good example. Also a part of theThree Parallel River area, the Manwan Hydroelectric Plant is located in the middleof the Lancang River (Mekong) in Yunnan Province. It was the first mega kilowatthydroelectric plant in Yunnan Province and also the first large power station on themainstream of the Lancang River. The construction started in May 1986, the Riverwas blocked in October 1987 for the dam building, and the first power generatorstarted to generate electricity on June 30th 1993. One of the five modelhydroelectric plants in the country (by whose judgments), the Manwan projectmaintained its minimal investment by providing probably the lowest compensation tothe some 7,500 some migrants - less than 3,000 RMB (~ 350 USD) per person,compare to a countrys average of 20,000 RMB (~ 2,500 USD). Besides providingan annual 100 million RMB to the national treasury and over 50 million RMB to theprovincial treasury, the Manwan also provides 50 million RMB to the 4 countiesinvolved, and makes a profit of 120 million RMB for the power company. However,little was provided to the local residents and to improve the migrants livelihoods.The compensation to local residents for migrating is far less than needed. Thepower company had maximized their benefit by providing the lowest possibleDevelopment and Support Fund for the migrants for a merely 400 RMB (less than50 USD) per person per year, a minimum required by the central government. Thepower company before the dam construction promised a bight future to farmers, butfew came true. Peoples life in the Manwan area did not get improved, but ratherfurther impoverished. Many migrants found themselves living in areas with scarceresources. They lost their homeland. And the new areas they were moved to thequality and area of the land, forest, pasture, fishery and the water resource all aremuch poorer than before. People lost job opportunities. Sadly and ridiculously, itwas a scandal to hear some villagers who are within walking distance to the damlived in dim candle lights because electricity prices charged to them could be ashigh as 3 times more that that of urban electricity prices. The power companypromised that 3-5% generated electricity would be supplied to local people toreplace burning of firewood, but no funds were allocated for setting up the
transmission stations.There are yet many lessons to be learned in the Manwan project in relation tolocal people, whose lives were altered most by the project. A central issue is thatlocal residents were not part of the decision-making processes. Their voices wereonly heard, albeit vaguely, when their basic living rights were violated AFTER theproject completion. Yet same poor participation is happening again in the Nujiangproject no prior-consultation to the local residents was held during the projectplanning.Take Action. Be a Responsible Citizen and Be a Responsible Nation!China has already lost many forests and grasslands in the recent 50 years ofhistory. Government and people are paying billions of dollars to try to regeneratethe natural forest and grassland. Have we not learnt enough lessons from thehistory?Mass construction planned on the Nujiang River will ruin the rivers authenticityand integrity, yardsticks measuring up to be a World Heritage Site. The honorarystatus of the Three Parallel Rivers World Nature Heritage Site designated by theUNESCO will be threatened. At the same time, dam building on this internationalriver will inevitably impose undesirable impacts on downstream countries and henceproduce a negative image of China within the international communities. What arewe supposed to do as a responsible nation?No matter you are simply a citizen or from an environmental NGO, or other walksof life, please speak up and do your best to save the Nujiang River so it can runfreely in China and in the world! How can we stand up to the fact that China orEastern Himalayan region will soon have no free-running river system, and we,responsible citizens at the critical times of decision-making were indifferent to thecall and lack of action? Do not think an individuals voice is too low to be heard,if we stand together to voice our opinion out loud enough, it will be heard!