Geography Reference
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resources. Most of the meeting participants were generous enough to commend the effort
that went into building the model, stressing the value of a holistic, transparent process for
evaluating dams, particularly in China, where the guidelines for integrating environmental
and social impacts into the decision-making process are vague at best. One official from a
hydropower-development company remarked, “When we think about the effects of a dam,
we've got to consider several areas. The first is inundation of land and relocation of people.
The second is the effects on the environment.”
Mr. Chen, a representative from one of the Five Energy Giants, agreed to attend the
Kunming workshop. A middle-aged man dressed impeccably in a business suit, he re-
however, he spoke quite strongly: “On the socioeconomic side, the relocation problem is
key. China is a country with little land and a huge population. It's difficult to give land to
resettled people. Cultural protection, especially for minority cultures, is important. It's a
national priority [ guojia youxian ].”
One key concern among the various workshop participants related to the reliability and
validity of the data used to run the model. Even under ideal circumstances, these data are
compiled from multiple locations or gathered by multiple agencies, which makes standard-
ization a problem. In China, data access can be extremely limited; our team's biophysical
group, for example, struggled to get flow data on the Nu River at a finer resolution than
monthly averages. Because the Nu is a transboundary river, not to mention a site of inter-
national controversy, such data are generally categorized as “for internal use” ( nei bu ), a
euphemism for “classified.” The data that are readily available, moreover, are often of sus-
pect quality. The socioeconomic research group, by contrast, was able to construct its own
survey to collect the necessary data from households in the two study watersheds. At the
end of the day, this sometimes meant that the various research groups were working with
data marked by vast differences in quantity and quality.
Moreover, the “Mrs. Wang problem,” in which each expert argued that his or her discip-
linary area should be represented with more detail or given more weight, came into play on
many occasions. Some experts expressed concern over the general structure of the model
and how to appropriately assign weights to the various indicators. One incident—indeed,
one scientist—came to typify the phenomenon. This particular scientist, Dr. Yang, is a
forest ecologist with international training and a great deal of field experience in southwest
to represent the biophysical indicators with more precision and detail, arguing that “just
BP2, the indicator for biodiversity, could be broken into a hundred different components.”
In short, she suggested, the model had sacrificed nuance for simplicity. Dr. Yang's com-
ments pointed to fundamental debates that still exist in the field of conservation biology
over how to measure interrelated concepts such as species richness, habitat diversity, and
taxonomic uniqueness.Hercomments alsohighlighted theneedtothinkcarefully aboutthe
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