Today our intern Andrew, who’s been working on our environmental campaign, sent a letter to Kishore Rao, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The Centre acts as a coordinator for UNESCO concerning World Heritage Sites, a network of international protected areas renowned for their outstanding natural or cultural significance.
Our letter concerned the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas in China, a World Heritage natural Site seriously threatened by five dam projects recently approved by the Chinese government. One of these projects in particular, the Song Ta dam, is located in Tibet and has been planned to start within the 2011-2015 period.
The dams will be built on the Nu River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in Asia, which originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through the World Heritage Site. This site represents a fundamental source of livelihood for millions of people across Asia.
Both UNESCO and other organisations have shown the negative impacts that these dams would have on the Three Parallel Rivers, an area that is home to 7,000 plant species and believed to support over 25% of the world’s animal species.
The impacts of dam construction include, great loss of biodiversity and water pollution, social disruption and forced resettlement, loss of natural and cultural heritage and potentially increased geological and seismological risks
At the World Heritage Committee session in Cambodia this June, there is a real chance that the Committee will consider including the Three Parallel Rivers on the List of World Heritage In Danger.
Such action is often seen as a sanction of the host country . It has proved to be a successful strategy to restrain China’ in the past. In 2004, under the pressure brought by the World Heritage Committee to comply with China’s international obligations, the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao suspended all of the thirteen dam projects originally proposed for the Nu River.
We demand in our letter that the current Chinese government once again complies with its international obligations by immediately suspending any projects that not only threaten the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site, but that are also expected to cause, among others major social and environmental disruption within the Tibetan Plateau and which will further contribute to the marginalization of Tibetan people.