Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
glong. In 2012, a journalist who had recently visited the sites for a magazine story showed
me photographs on her tablet computer revealing hillside scars, road construction, and oth-
er signs of preparatory work at these two sites.
While the Lancang dams have attracted controversy in their own right, they have also
raised concerns about a so-called domino effect in which downstream riparian countries,
already affected by the altered flow regime of the Mekong, begin dam projects of their own
in order to reap the benefits of electricity and revenue. After years of debate, the People's
Democratic Republic of Laos announced in late 2012 that construction would begin on the
Xayaburi Dam, the first of what will likely be nearly a dozen projects along the middle and
lower reaches of the Mekong in the years to come (Ngo 2012). As I show in subsequent
chapters, all of the countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion have devised plans for dam-
ming the river, and many rely on Chinese expertise and financing.
Much of what we know about the effects of dams on communities in Yunnan comes from
case studies of the Manwan Hydropower Station, which was completed in 1996 and has
been the subject of fairly comprehensive studies over the past two decades. At 132 meters
high and 482 meters across, it is actually one of the more modest projects on the river.
Upon its completion, however, the Manwan reservoir extended 70 kilometers upstream, in-
undating more than 6,000 mu of farmland and 8,000 mu of woodlands across 114 villages
in eight townships within Jingdong, Yun, Fengqing, and Nanjian Counties. 4
The Manwan Hydropower Station was initiated as a joint project between the Yunnan
provincial government and the MWR but has since been turned over to Yunnan Huaneng
Lancang River Hydropower Company (known in English as Hydrolancang), a subsidiary
of China Huaneng Group, one of the Five Energy Giants, which holds a state-granted
monopoly on hydropower development rights in the Lancang basin (Magee 2006). A social
and environmental impact study, sponsored by Oxfam Hong Kong, was conducted dur-
ing the summer of 2000 and incorporated into a document entitled Reasonable and Equit-
able Utilization of Water Resources and Water Environment Conservation in International
Rivers in Southwest China , a key component of China's Ninth Five-Year Plan for Science
and Technology. 5 The product of collaboration between natural and social scientists, this
study provides a baseline for understanding the social and ecological effects of the Man-
wan Dam.
The findings of the social impact assessment team, which included a number of Chinese
social scientists from government institutions, were striking. Before construction began,
government officials had estimated that 3,042 people, mostly from local farming house-
holds, would be displaced. However, the actual figure totaled more than 7,000. This is a
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