July 20, 2000
Yunnan, China: Barely a month after the picturesque Nujiang river was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2003, the Chinese government predictably revealed a plan to do what it has done at more than 20,000 locations across the country: Build a massive dam. Since then, things have taken a very unpredictable–and what for China would have once been unthinkable–turn. Namely, an outcry from locals, NGOs, and even the state-owned media seems to have actually persuaded the Chinese government to temporarily halt the project. The decision, though hardly a full victory for the environmental activists and residents who oppose the dam, is showing a new side of China. As growth and energy demand skyrocket hand in hand, an awareness of environmental and human rights is starting to grow as well. … “Environmental protection is a basic right of the people,” said Wang Yongchen, 51, a reporter for China National Radio and the head of Lujiayuan, an NGO based in Beijing. “People in the middle class, who do not have difficulties making a living, are becoming increasingly concerned about the environment. The momentum will never stop.” Read the full story.