Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
power plays an increasingly important and conspicuous role in the national energy portfo-
lio as China attempts to wean itself from fossil fuels. Although China shares this pursuit
in common with many other countries, including the United States, the scale and pace of
its hydropower-development scheme is truly unprecedented. The chapter concludes with
a discussion of recent policy changes that have transferred the construction and operation
of dams and the distribution of electrical power from government agencies to private in-
vestors or shareholder corporations.
Chapter 3 provides a detailed case study on how dams are affecting the lives of people in
the Lancang River basin, where four large dams have been completed and more are under
way. I examine the effects of these projects on people's access to land, their agricultural
practices, their household finances, their sense of place, and their social networks. An im-
portant part of this analysis is the complex topic of land rights in rural China, which have
changed considerably in recent years. Some resettled villagers cope with displacement by
whereas others have entered the wage-labor market or attempted to start their own busi-
nesses. Many villagers face a pattern of indebtedness that will pose a challenge for years to
In chapter 4 , I turn to an analysis of the Nu River basin, exploring the current livelihood
strategies of the people who live there, many of whom are among the poorest in China. I
also examine the vulnerability of Nu River villagers to the proposed hydropower-develop-
ment plan, addressing their precarious economic situation, their attempts to participate in
the political decisions that affect their lives, and their struggle for cultural autonomy. Des-
pite the fact that the Nu River dams have received extensive international media attention,
many local villagers have little specific knowledge of the construction plans. Their views
of hydropower development are characterized by great uncertainty, tempered with the op-
and help them to avoid some of the worst social problems associated with displacement.
Chapter 5 focuses on recent collaborative efforts across scientific disciplines to under-
stand and mitigate the complex problems associated with dams. How do scientists and
policy makers use data to reach decisions about the management of water resources? I ad-
dress this question in two ways: first, by drawing upon observations and interviews with
scientists and policy makers within Chinese government agencies and NGOs; and, second,
by reflecting on my own experience as a researcher on a large, interdisciplinary project de-
signed to create a decision-support model that helps policy makers predict, visualize, and
weigh the many costs and benefits of dams. A significant part of this story relates to how
science operates as an epistemological domain, how various scientific disciplines construct
knowledge in disparate ways, and how these various forms of knowledge come to influ-
ence the policy-making process.
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