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The Nujiang Dam Project

A plan to build 13 hydropower dams on the Nujiang river in China, Asia's last free flowing international river, has provoked extensive debate since it was approved by China's powerful State Development and Reform Commission in August 2003. The Nujiang flows through a spectacular canyon dubbed the Oriental Grand Canyon and through the Three Rivers Region, an area designated as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This region is a world center for the origin of many flora and fauna species and the most important and precious gene bank in the world. It contains about 25% of the animal species of the world and 50% of those in China, plus over 6000 varieties of plants including many that are found only in this region. The river is home to 48 proven species of fish including some that are unique. The lower reaches of the Nujiang contain over 30 hectars of wild rice and are the most important gene bank for studying and developing hybrid rice. In addition the region is home to 22 minority nationalities including Naxi, Lisu, Tibet, Bai, Yi, Pumi, Nu and Dulong ethnic groups with many diverse languages, religions, customs and crafts living in an area that has the richest cultural diversity in the world. It is estimated that over 50,000 people, mainly minorities would be displaced by the dam project.

In response to the proposed dams, there has been considerable opposition by scientific and environmental groups and others within China as well as by the world community. Construction of the first dam at Liuku, near the Chinese-Burmese border was to have begun later in 2004, but on April 8, 2004 Prime Minister Wen Jiabao unexpectedly suspended plans for the massive dam system citing environmental concerns, and ordered a major review of the project.

Since then advocates have continued to lobby in Beijing to restart the project while environmental groups lobby for public hearings and further research. According to the Jan 2nd New York Times, as of November 2004 there were reports that preparatory work was continuing near Liuku. It also said officials were meeting in Beijing to assess the environmental damage in monetary terms as part of the continuing environmental feasibility study.

Nujiang Dams Approved, Preliminary Work Underway

As of March of 2005, at the National People's Congress in Beijing, the Minister of Water Resources, Wang Shucheng, said four dams would go ahead, starting with the Liuku project. Geological surveys and construction of side roads has already begun. Indications are that the Liuku Power Station would be located 5 kilometers upstream of Liuku. Along some 200 kilometers above Liuku crews of workmen and geologists from the China Power Corporation have been digging exploratory tunnels into the hillsides and taking cores of the river bottom.

Who We Are

The Save the Nujiang group consists of whitewater enthusiasts and advocates for the protection and preservation of the world's natural rivers. Most of our members participated in the first descent of the Nujiang in 1996 organized by White Pearl of Boulder, Colorado and Xi Yi of Kunming, China. Members of the Save the Nujiang group include, Mike Gheleta, Yu Juanjuan, Norbert Klebl, Frank Leuthold, Tom Meyer, Zia Parker, Dave Pizzuti, Brad Rosenzweig, Chuck Smythe, Eileen Stearns, Philip Wegener, and Scott Young.

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