Preparatory construction activities are reportedly underway on a massive dam project in China’s Yunnan province that will displace local tribespeople and wash away a section of the Yangtze River valley thought to be the location that inspired writer James Hilton’s Shangri-La. The Huaneng Group, China’s largest independent power producer, is managing the project, which has not yet received final approval from China’s central government.
Yunnan officials say the project – slated to include a power facility that can generate 30% more energy than the Three Gorges Dam – will provide much-needed power to China, which has experienced numerous blackouts as its cities rapidly grow. Officials also say the dam will help solve environmental problems further south in Kunming province by diverting water from the Jinsha River to dilute the heavily polluted and shrinking lake that supplies water to Kunming’s provincial capital.
Project opponents warn that its consequences will be disastrous, and will include the flooding of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the destruction of the way of life for the Naxi people – one of the world’s last surviving matriarchal societies – and an end to the region’s tourism.
In an attempt to stop the project, nine NGO’s have petitioned the Hunaeng Group, stating: “We call on the authorities to balance human interests against nature, in order to leave our precious world heritage…to the world and to future generations.” (news.independent.uk/world, October 2004)
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