Dec. 02, 2023
2008Yunnan(9) Environmental Impact Assessment Announcement on the Wall

Decade River Project 2008 (9) Environmental Impact Assessment Announcement Posted on the Wall

 Author:  Yongchen Wang

On December 27, 2008, when the Decade River Project group arrived at Xiaoshaba Village, a public notice posted on a wall drew the attention of the journalists. Titled Liuku Hydropower Station Environmental Impact Assessment Report, it called on "the public" to submit feedback from December 15 to 26.

Feng Yongfeng, a journalist from  Guangming Daily, saw a young villager come over and asked him whether or not he had seen the report. The villager replied, "We farmers cannot read, only the cadres can. How can we offer our opinions if we can't understand the announcement in the first place?"

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification

After returning from the trip, we found a public notice on the Nujiang Grand Canyon website titled Regarding the Public's Participation in the EIA of the Yunnan Province Nujiang River Liuku Hydropower Station ( The text on the website was much simpler than the one posted on the wall. We could not help but wonder how this environmental impact assessment report could be so insubstantial, given that the development of the Nujiang Hydropower Station had garnered international attention.
Regarding the Public's Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Yunnan Province Nujiang River Liuku Hydropower Station
Project Name: Liuku Hydropower Station
Construction Site: Principal Stream of Lushui County, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province
Project Construction Property: New
Developer: Yunnan Huadian Nujiang River Hydropower Development CO.,Ltd.
Evaluation Agency: HydroChina Kunming Engineering Corporation
Certificate No.: National EIA Certificate No. 3402 Jia
Notification Type: EIA Preliminary Report for Examination
Notification Subject: Liuku Hydropower Station EIA Report (Abridged)
Notification Organization: HydroChina Kunming Engineering Corporation
Yunnan Huadian Nujiang River Hydropower Development CO.,Ltd.

Project Profile:  The Liuku Hydropower Station is one of the hydropower projects in the mid to lower sections of the Nujiang River.  The dam is located 4.5 km away from the town of Liuku. While the main function of the dam is to produce hydropower, it is also a tourist attraction. The hydropower station is a medium-sized project designed as a run-of-the-river type. With normal water level at 818 m, backwater length of 12 km, corresponding storage capacity of 8.56 million cubic meters, total installed capacity of 180 MW and annual electricity generation of 874 million kWh, the project covers 235 hectares of which 162 hectares is land surface area. In addition to the town of Liuku, the project involves the village committees of Xiaoshaba, Shuangmaidi, Denggeng and Luzhang. During the base year, arrangements were made for 499 agricultural workers, of which 465 had to relocate. There were 33 non-agricultural work units and 12 professional work units.

EIA Conclusion:  Liuku Hydropower Station is a clean energy construction project.  The construction site does not lie within any environmentally sensitive areas, such as natural protection areas, world heritage sites, or important heritage sites under state protection.   Any negative impact the project may have can be reduced by taking appropriate environmental protection measures.  Addressing the needs for supplying energy sufficient to promote local social and economic development, construction of the Liuku hydropower station will be beneficial by helping the Nu people to break out of poverty and progress gradually to relative prosperity by reducing environmental pollution and achieving sustainable energy use.  The construction of the Liuku Hydropower Station is feasible as long as the environmental measures and proposals written in the report are implemented in practice.

Report Notification Consultation Period and Procedure:
Effective Period: December 15-26, 2008.  During this period, members of the public may consult the Abridged EIA Report at the Yunnan Huadian Nujiang River Hydropower Development Co., Ltd. (No. 4 Nanxiang, Qiaodong, Liuku Town) and may also go to the government offices of Liuku and Luzhang to pick up an environmental impact pamphlet.  If necessary, members of the public may apply to the construction unit of the EIA office to obtain more information about this project's environmental impact assessment.

Public Feedback Procedure and Period: During the EIA report notification consultation period, members of the public may submit written comments to the construction unit or EIA office in the form of letter, fax or email.

Construction Unit: Yunnan Huadian Nujiang River Hydropower Development Co.,Ltd.
Address: 4th floor, Jintai Hall, No. 48, Dongfengdong Rd. Kunming
Post code: 650051
Phone: 0871-6308572
Fax: 0871-6308938
Contact Name: Zheng Jiangtao Email:
Mu Jin Email:
Assessment Agent: HydroChina Kunming Engineering Corporation
Certificate No.: No. 3402 Jia Certificate of National Environmental Impact Assessment
Address: Hydropower Technological Hall, No. 115 Renmin dong Rd. Kunming, Yunnan
Post Code: 650051
Phone: 0871-3062685
Fax: 0871-3062215
Contact Name: Yin Tao Email:
Chen Pingping Email:

December 25, 2008

Public notification of a project's EIA report marks progress in the building of a country's legal system.  But how should we make such notifications, what should those notifications cover, and to what level of what of detail?  How should public feedback responding to such public notifications be handled?  After reading through this report notification, my feeling is that all these are questions we still need to work on to improve our legal system.

Voices on the wall

Whether the Nujiang hydropower station gets built remains an open question, and it is an issue that continues to be followed both at home and abroad. But though we noted this instance of wall-based communication culture in Nujiang, it is by no means limited to this area. Several years ago, when I was in Yunnan doing a report in the Zhaotong mountains where the black-necked cranes spend their winters, a farmer volunteering with the Black-necked Cranes Protection Association told me that rather than hold meetings, they too used the wall to discuss ways to protect the cranes.

Posting words on the wall was their way to express themselves. Next to the two banners in the photo was a list of the amounts of money that each villager would receive as compensation for relocating from this area. This made it possible for the villagers to tell how large everyone's existing house was, and how much each person would receive for their new one. The photo of the street that we took this year is almost identical to the one we took last year.  For each of the new houses built by the government, a shop building was closed.

Xiaoshaba Village

Every day spent at home

The director of the Family Planning Department in Xiaoshaba Village is one of the 100 people that we interviewed in 2006 who would be relocating from Nujiang. Two years ago she was worried about whether she could afford her children's tuition by raising pigs, since she did not have a yard then and had to stay home every day. This year, she told us, she had spent tens of thousands of RMB on her son's medical care. Their circumstances had been difficult to start with, and now it was one disaster after another. However, looking at her home's furnishings, we could tell that those of her children who were already working had renovated her house in a rather modern style. Another promising sign was that their shop building had been rented and was providing them them with one thousand yuan per month. She told us that about 40% of the shop buildings had been rented, but later investigations we did indicated that this number was probably too high.

Even before the dam construction had received its environmental impact assessment approval, the villagers of Liuku Xiaoshaba had already immigrated. They moved to a new village that the government had built on their own paddy fields, because most of them were Lisu people who refused to relocate anywhere else. One Liuku tour guide told us that the previous year, the government had moved the Liuku building materials market to a spot near the new village. Now, it was the managers of the building materials enterprise that rented the Xiaoshaba houses. But since the building materials market had also been affected by the financial crisis, it would be hard to tell how long the houses would continue to be rented out.

The old village head in his new house

Mr. He's family is one of ten households that the Decade River Project follows and interviews every year. Our interviews from the past two years revealed the biggest problem that has arisen since the family moved to the new village. On the old land they used to raise pigs and cattle, which they could sell to cover their children's tuition and household expenses. But because they had no yard in the new village, they could only raise chickens. The hencoops distributed by the local government were supposed to be able to contain 20 chickens, but those turned out to be young chickens. Once they grew older, the hencoop was only big enough for four or five chickens. When we arrived in 2007, Mr. He said that previously, even if his family did not have income for half a year, at least they still had vegetables in the fields, chickens in the yards and preserved ham in the house. But now even a piece of green onion had to be bought with money. But where could they get the money?

The hencoop distributed by the local government can hold about 20 chickens

From our interview with Mr. He's family, we ascertained that they faced another problem besides no longer being able to raise livestock. They possessed over 60 mango trees, 10 bamboos, 20 plantain trees, 10 pomegranate trees, 4 coffee trees, 8 peach trees, 600 big tung trees, 200 small tung trees, 600 fruit peel trees, 5 kapok trees and 10 calabash trees, all of which would be submerged with the construction of the reservoir. Although they had not yet been flooded yet, they were already old trees, and after moving to the new village the family lacked the strength to take care of them. After two years, income from the fruit trees had basically disappeared.


The old house has been torn down

The trees in front of and behind the house cannot be moved

The old pig pen

Production of paddy rice used to be 800 km per mu

Since final permission for construction of the reservoir had not been granted, the people of Xiaoshaba who were forced to relocate have only come to a temporary compensatory agreement with the government regarding the paddy fields, dry lands and vegetable fields. When Mr. He showed us the compensation his family received, we could not understand how such a large family could possibly survive on that amount of money over the past two years.

Compensation for the two years transitional period

In 2007, I wrote the following paragraph: "I was doing a story in 2006 about one hundred people who were about to relocate from their homes because of the reservoir. At the time, Mi Qingrong was building a house for his daughter's marriage. There was a huge crack in their old house. Consequently he was the only person at that time who dared to post a notice in the village saying that even if he could not be compensated for his newly-built house, he would still build it anyway. The next time we visited, his family still had not moved to the new village. However, after living in their new house for only nine months, not only was it torn down, but their water and electricity supply were also cut off. His daughter had just given birth to a baby; a string of cured meat hung in the ruins."

When we asked him why he did not move to the new village, we realized why he had refused to move: he had about 200 mango trees on his land. By selling the mangoes from these trees, he could earn up to 350 to 400 RMB per tree each year. Had he moved, he would have only received a one-time compensation fee of 100 RMB per mango tree. Seeing that they refused to move, we then asked what the family was going to do. In their eyes there was helplessness, but no anger.

I remembered asking him the last time we came to report on this story what he would do if the trees were cut down. At the time he replied that he had no choice but to “sacrifice his own interests for the greater good”. The fact that now he refused to move suggested that the compensation amount really was too low. There is no point in pressuring farmers in such circumstances: they have no choice but to stay in their current homes.

Moving after living here for two years without water and electricity

The pig pen is already empty

When we went to his house earlier this year, his wife was still living in their old house. She had told us, though, that they would be moving, as they had been living there for two years without water or electricity. We asked whether the compensation problem over the mango trees had been solved. She said that in August 2008 she had received a one-time payment of 78,000 RMB for over 1800 trees, but that the grove was worth upwards of 300 to 400 RMB per tree. At present, the only compensation she had received was for the trees; she still had not received compensation for the property. What other choice did they have, Ms. Mi mused, except to "sacrifice their interests for the greater good"?

Last year we had seen a string of preserved hams hanging in the ruins of their nine month-old house. This year it was raining heavily when we arrived, but Ms. Mi insisted on showing us one small house that had not yet been torn down. It turned out to be a house full of preserved hams.

From the last pig, there would be no more


I make really good ham

Ms. Mi told us they that hereafter she would not be able to raise any more pigs, since she would no longer have the space to hang dry the cured meat. She would live in this house with no water or electricity only until the preserved hams had finished drying, and then she would leave.

This woman farmer told us these things with a smile on her face. But that little house, soon to be leveled, with all its hanging ham inside, would stay in my memory forever.

When the Decade River Project comes back to Xiaoshaba Village in 2009, will the Mi family still have ham to eat?

Translator: Yan Feng
Proofreaders:  Lucy Chen, Jim Rothstein, Karen Marshall, Pierre Thompson, Jill Marshall