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As plans to build over a dozen hydropower stations on Yunnan Province's Nujiang River seem to have been shelved due to environmental concerns [url=]Authentic Donovan Smith Jersey[/url] , residents are still struggling in one of China's poorest regions. Environmental NGOs and some local officials are arguing that turning the region into a national park might be a solution to its stagnant economic growth.

The Nujiang River winds its way through "China's Grand Canyon" in Gongshan county, Southwest China's Yunnan province. Photo: IC

As one travels up the Nujiang River valley, terraced rice fields become more narrow on the increasingly precipitous mountains, perching on which are huts built with strips of woven bamboo or logs owned by people from ethic minority groups such as the Lisu and Nu peoples.

The scarcity of arable land means that residents of the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Yunnan Province are, at best [url=]Authentic Noah Spence Jersey[/url] , only just able to sustain themselves.

As such, local economic growth is falling short of being able to fulfill the local government's hope that the area can shed its reputation as the poorest prefecture in the country.

The pressure to develop out of poverty might outweigh the importance of environmental protection for the local authorities, as a result of their thirst for hydropower dams - both large and small - along "China's Grand Canyon."

However, these designs have long met with a storm of opposition not only from environmental protection groups, but recently from the national environmental protection authorities, who worry about the inevitable damage to the ecosystem and geological problems - including mudslides and earthquakes - such dams may cause.

After more than a decade of debate [url=]Authentic Vernon Hargreaves III Jersey[/url] , the survey base of the Maji hydropower plant, which was once moving full speed ahead to prepare for one of 13 planned large dams, is covered with weeds. The name plate hanging beside the gate has been washed out by the rain while survey machinery and boats lie idle around the base.

The plans for large dams on the Nujiang have been thrown into uncertainty as, following the central government's greater emphasis on environmental protection, the provincial Party head of Yunnan has said that the construction of small dams will halt and that he will push for the Nujiang valley to become a national park.

Seeking development

The Nujiang, which springs from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau [url=]Authentic Kendell Beckwith Jersey[/url] , carves canyons across Yunnan before flowing through Myanmar and Thailand and is one of China's last pristine rivers that have yet to be impeded by major dams.

The river has become the subject of bitter controversy since the National Development and Reform Commission in 2003 gave the green light to a plan to build the 13 hydropower stations along the river.

The provincial government changed the plan to only include four large hydro plants during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15).

The border prefecture's annual taxation in 2015 reached 1.14 billion yuan ($180 million), accounting for only 6 percent of Yunnan's total. All the four counties administered by Nujiang prefecture are listed as national-level poverty-stricken counties.

Yielding less than 50 kilograms of grain per mu (0.067 hectares) on average, one family cannot support themselves even if they own 10 mu of land, Xie Yi, former Party chief of Nujiang, was quoted by the Nanfang Daily as saying.

"Hydropower projects can bring taxation [url=]Authentic Chris Godwin Jersey[/url] , investment and job opportunities to the poor prefecture that suffers the absence of pillar industries," Yang Zhiwei, a local businessman who invested in small hydropower plants on tributaries of the Nujiang, told the Global Times.

A huge billboard saying "ore and [hydro] electricity make the town strong" still stands on the road to Bingzhongluo township which was included in the 13-dam plan.

While Wang Yongchen, a 61-year-old journalist-turned-environmentalist, admitted the economic benefits that the certain hydropower plants would likely bring [url=]Authentic Justin Evans Jersey[/url] , she argued that the damage to the local environment is not worth the money.

In a 2011 blog post, she said that building even a small hydropower plant changes the path of tributaries, reduces the amount of nutrients in the river's silt, raises the water temperature and damages nearby vegetation. All four changes can result in serious disruption or irreversible damage to the local ecosystem, she noted.

The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, the Jinsha [url=]Authentic O. J. Howard Jersey[/url] , Nujiang and Lancang rivers, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued China with an ultimatum in 2007, that they could be delisted if "no marked progress [in preservation] is made." The committee had previously expressed its "grave concern" over the proposed dams.

Echoing Wang, Yu Xiaogang, director of the Yunnan-based NGO Green Watershed and Goldman Environmental Prize winner [url=]Authentic Carlton Davis Jersey[/url] , said that the area's unfavorable and fragile geological conditions should also be taken into account.

Along the valley, white patches on the mountains left by landslides are accentuated by the slopes' rich blanket of trees, with boulders rolling into and even across the river.

Poverty reduction was another reason to build the dams according to the project's supporters. By the end of 2005, the number of impoverished people in the region - at the time defined nationally as individual with an annual income of less that 2,300 yuan - reached 275,300 [url=]Authentic M.J. Stewart Jersey[/url] , making up 60 percent of the agricultural population, and a total of 45,000 extremely impoverished households - defi"

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