Destroying Yunnan's 'Gold Cross' will defeat the purpose of mass hydro schemes
Your Focus article 'A barrage of doubts' (June 6) discussed China's new wave of hydroelectric power development frenzy comprehensively.
On top of the geological hazards and social problems associated with the resettlement, there are many more problems. Last year I wrote an analysis, 'Risks of Intensification of Hydropower Development in Southwestern China: Urgent Issues to be addressed'. A year later, all these urgent matters seem to have become even more urgent.
One in particular must be addressed again: the safeguarding of the 'Gold Cross' region. Destroying this sensitive area would threaten China's ecological safety, national security and future competitiveness.
The Gold Cross is a large oasis of biodiversity that straddles northwestern Yunnan and Myanmar. It has three rivers: the Jinsha River, which is the upper reaches of the Yangtze River; the Nu River, the upper reaches of the Salween River; and Lancang River, the upper reaches of the Mekong River. The three flow side by side for almost 170 kilometres, forming the unique 'three parallel rivers'.
The canyon they form is located at the junction of East Asia, South Asia and the Tibetan Plateau. It was listed in 2003 as a Unesco World Heritage Site because 'Northwest Yunnan is the area of richest biodiversity in China and may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth'.
The site encompasses most of the natural habitats in the Hengduan Mountains, 'one of the world's most important remaining areas for the conservation of the earth's biodiversity'.
The Gold Cross region has many types of ecosystems. It is also one of the world's 25 biodiversity hotspots and one of the 17 biodiversity conservation 'key regions' in China. It accounts for only 1.4 per cent of China's land area, but it is home to more 40 per cent of plant and animal species in China.
Twenty-three hydropower stations are planned, are under construction or have already been built on the Jinsha River alone. At least eight of them are in the Gold Cross region. If the Upper Tiger Leaping Gorge hydropower station proceeds, 1.3 million hectares will be submerged.
The problems caused by large-scale hydropower projects still have not received adequate investigation. To intensify hydropower development in the name of reducing carbon emissions or lifting poverty will introduce more problems than it can solve.
Su Liu, manager, Civic Exchange