The Yunnan government has decided to scrap a controversial plan to dam the
famed Tiger Leaping Gorge after strong local opposition and international
Breaking a long silence over the fate of the project, the provincial government
reached a decision on Sunday that no dam would be built at the gorge, one of
the 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 of
the natural scenery at the gorge and ancient villages nearby, sources familiar
with the discussions at the meeting said.
Instead, authorities plan to move the dam 200km upstream to a Tibetan-populated
area bordering Weixi and Deqin counties in Diqing .
The new location is expected to significantly reduce the number of people
displaced by the project.
A 276-metre-high dam that could generate 88.3 billion kWh of electricity a year
had 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 middle
reaches, and was to have been accompanied by seven smaller dams downstream.
More than 100,000 residents, mostly farmers from ethnic minorities in
Shangri-la and Yulong counties, would have been evicted to make way for the
The new site, which had yet to be chosen from three options available, was
expected to displace about 20,000 people, the sources said
The proposed damming of Tiger Leaping Gorge was also aimed at diverting water
from the Jinsha to the centre of the province, including the provincial
capital, Kunming .
The central government has deliberately maintained an ambiguous stance on the
fate of the gorge since the State Council ordered an investigation in 2004 into
allegations that construction had started without its approval.
But according to the sources, the Yunnan government made a decision as early as
February to exclude Tiger Leaping Gorge from its ambitious hydropower
development on the Jinsha.
Former water resources minister Wang Shucheng had told the South China Morning
Post in April, shortly before his retirement, that the damming of Tiger Leaping
Gorge was unlikely to go ahead. He said that despite the project’s promising
economic returns from power generation, the central government was highly
concerned about its irreparable damage to the local environment and the unique
culture of the ethnic minorities.
Villagers have welcomed the scrapping of the controversial dam plan, which they
had strongly opposed in a rare show of defiance against the powerful
electricity developers and development-minded local authorities.
The prolonged debate over the proposed dam has seriously disrupted the local
economy and people’s livelihoods.
Villagers’ opposition has attracted widespread attention since 2004. They even
sent a petition letter to Beijing last year protesting against the damming of
Muzzled in its reporting of the controversial project over the past two years,
local media have been told not to report the scrapping of the dam proposal.