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Yunnan Scraps Tiger Leaping Gorge Dam

By Shi Jiangtao in Panzhihua, SichuanSouth China Morning Post. 21 December 2007.

The Yunnan government has decided to scrap a controversial plan to dam thefamed Tiger Leaping Gorge after strong local opposition and internationalconcern. Breaking a long silence over the fate of the project, the provincialgovernmentreached a decision on Sunday that no dam would be built at the gorge, one ofthe deepest river canyons in the world and close to a World Heritage site. They decided to stop damming of the gorge so as to preserve the integrity ofthe natural scenery at the gorge and ancient villages nearby, sourcesfamiliarwith the discussions at the meeting said. Instead, authorities plan to move the dam 200km upstream to aTibetan-populatedarea bordering Weixi and Deqin counties in Diqing . The new location is expected to significantly reduce the number of peopledisplaced by the project. A 276-metre-high dam that could generate 88.3 billion kWh of electricity ayearhad been proposed on the Jinsha River at the gorge. The plan has been shelved since 2004 following a rare public outcry. The proposed dam was the biggest hydropower project along the Jinsha's middlereaches, and was to have been accompanied by seven smaller dams downstream. More than 100,000 residents, mostly farmers from ethnic minorities inShangri-la and Yulong counties, would have been evicted to make way for theproject. The new site, which had yet to be chosen from three options available, wasexpected to displace about 20,000 people, the sources said The proposed damming of Tiger Leaping Gorge was also aimed at diverting waterfrom the Jinsha to the centre of the province, including the provincialcapital, Kunming . The central government has deliberately maintained an ambiguous stance on thefate of the gorge since the State Council ordered an investigation in 2004intoallegations that construction had started without its approval. But according to the sources, the Yunnan government made a decision asearly asFebruary to exclude Tiger Leaping Gorge from its ambitious hydropowerdevelopment on the Jinsha. Former water resources minister Wang Shucheng had told the South ChinaMorningPost in April, shortly before his retirement, that the damming of TigerLeapingGorge was unlikely to go ahead. He said that despite the project's promisingeconomic returns from power generation, the central government was highlyconcerned about its irreparable damage to the local environment and theuniqueculture of the ethnic minorities. Villagers have welcomed the scrapping of the controversial dam plan, whichtheyhad strongly opposed in a rare show of defiance against the powerfulelectricity developers and development-minded local authorities. The prolonged debate over the proposed dam has seriously disrupted the localeconomy and people's livelihoods. Villagers' opposition has attracted widespread attention since 2004. Theyevensent a petition letter to Beijing last year protesting against the damming ofthe gorge.

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