Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
primarily for household heating and cooking or for local exchange. Access to forested land
for gathering plants takes place under an informal management system, with families and
villages harvesting resources on land over which they have enjoyed long-standing usufruct
claims but no formal title.
With the marketization of agriculture and the expansion of other industries such as tour-
ism, many households have adopted fairly entrepreneurial and opportunistic outlooks. One
family in Fugong County, for example, had a permanent house in a village high in the
mountains, a day's hike along forested trails from the river valley. But several household
members went out in search of wage work: one son worked as a driver for tourist groups,
and another operated a small retail shop along the main highway in the gorge, selling
drinks, packaged snacks, and cigarettes. He brought in extra money by charging villagers a
few yuan for access to a rickety billiards table, a television set, and homemade corn-mash
Officials in county-, prefecture- and provincial-level government agencies are largely
supportive of dam development on the Nu, hoping that these projects will improve local
transportation infrastructure, further develop communications technology,provide employ-
ment opportunities for local workers, spur new investment, and even improve educational
levels among the local population (X. Li 2008). In fact, many of the official government
documents on the Nu River dams describe hydropower development as a “poverty-allevi-
ation weapon” ( fupin wuqi ) in a region that is otherwise perceived by mainstream Chinese
society as culturally and economically backward. The government of Nujiang Prefecture,
which is accustomed to relying on central government subsidies as a main revenue source,
is strongly in favor of the projects; it estimates that of 36 billion yuan per year in hydro-
power revenue, one billion would stay in the prefecture, effectively increasing the local
revenue stream by a factor of ten (Magee and McDonald 2009:50).
But careful inspections ofthe planning documents reveal an interesting fact: the vast ma-
jority of electrical power will be sent eastward to coastal cities in Guangdong Province un-
der the Send Western Electricity East policy. Thus, existing economic disparities between
regions are likely to be exacerbated by the Nu River projects (Magee 2006). Although at
the time of our study some local villagers anticipated job opportunities working on con-
struction at the various dam sites, such prospects can be elusive and short-lived, if they
materialize at all.
Asecond area ofvulnerability relates togovernance issues; major questions about public
participation in decision making as well as about compensation for lost assets remain un-
answered. Recent studies have investigated the implementation of compensation policies
thus far in the Nu River basin (see, e.g., Brown and Xu 2010). On September 1, 2006, the
State Council adopted the Regulations on Land-Acquisition Compensation and Resettle-
ment of Migrants for Construction of Large- and Medium-Scale Water-Conservancy and
Hydropower Projects (Chinese State Council [1991] 2006). These regulations represent a
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