Open letter by Professor Fan Xiao, a geologist and environmental scientist in China, endorsed by Chinese environmental groups, Friends of Nature and Green Earth Volunteers, concerning the construction of the Xiaonanhai Dam in the National Nature Reserve of Rare and Endemic Fish in the Upper Yangtze River.
Statement Regarding the National Nature Reserve of Rare and Endemic Fish in the Upper Yangtze River
On December 12, 2011, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, through Decree  No. 156, issued a notice that the State Council supports the Ministry of Environmental Protection in adjusting the range of the National Nature Reserve of Rare and Endemic Fish in the Upper Yangtze River. At 16:26 on December 14, 2011, this notice was promulgated on the website of The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China.
These modifications to the areal extent of the National Nature Reserve of Rare and Endemic Fish in the Upper Yangtze River are intended to eliminate the obstacles associated with the proposed Yangtze River’s Xiaonanhai Hydropower Station. The size of the protected area will drastically shrink as a result. The dam will also sever the rare and endemic fishes’ only passage to their breeding grounds, critically transforming the protected area’s natural habitat and ecology. This approval not only damages the entire structure and function of the Reserve, but also seriously undermines conservation targets and goals. Furthermore, it violates relevant rules stipulated by the People’s Republic of China’s “Environmental Protection Law,” “Wildlife Protection Law,” “Regulations on Nature Reserves,” “Regulations on Amending the Range and Function and Changing the Names of National Nature Reserves.”
When deliberating on decisions for major issues or projects, the government should prioritize the overall interests of society and citizens as its key consideration. It should exercise justice, promote harmony, and administer its public responsibilities in accordance with the law, not succumb to its own or industries’ short-term interests. Doing so not only undermines the interests of society and future generations, but also escalates progress for non-scientific and non-rational development all the while exacerbating environmental damages. In 2005, this Reserve’s extent was already modified for the downstream construction of the massive Jinsha Hydropower Station. The Ministry of Environmental Protection firmly declared at the time that, “It should be clarified both in revised planning and in construction that no more hydropower project is to be developed in the trimmed nature reserve.”
However, this repeated approval to amend the size of the Reserve is undoubtedly a major detriment to the supremacy of the law and credibility of the government. It is also a serious deviation from the government’s commitment to uphold only scientifically-sound development that concurrently accounts for environmental impacts. These changes mark a new “milestone” – one that will devastate the Upper Yangtze’s aquatic organisms and ecosystems – and leave behind a shameful chapter in China’s social development and environmental protection.
We express our opposition to modifying the areal extent of the National Nature Reserve of Rare and Endemic Fish in the Upper Yangtze River. We express our opposition to constructing the Xiaonanhai Hydropower Station. We call upon all who are concerned about the global environment and sustainable development of human society to think about the Yangtze River. Protect the Yangtze River!
Fan Xiao (Chinese Citizen, Geology and Environmental Scholar, Professor and Senior Engineer)
Friends of Nature (Beijing)
Green Earth Volunteers (Beijing)
December 16, 2011
(Unofficial translation: C. Ngo)