WWF-Canada Blog:

Rivers, power and people


In Waking the Green Tiger, BC based filmmaker Gary Marcuse traveled to China to uncover the story of  the activists who  led one of China’s first public environmental campaigns to reconsider twenty-one new dams that were proposed on the Nu River and the upper Yangtze River in Yunnan province. Tiger Leaping Gorge, a renowned cultural and scenic site, was one of the more controversial sites for dam construction. The Gorge acquired its name because, according to local legend, a tiger once leaped over its’ surging rapids. Some say Tiger Leaping Gorge is the world’s deepest river canyon.

(c) Kevin Schafer/WWF-Canon

The film traces the history of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and its devastating effect on the environment, and links that history to the activists in the Nu River who used new citizens’ rights to public participation in environmental decisions in China’s Environmental Impact Assessment law to help their campaign.  Through a combination of films, public awareness sessions, media stories, and grassroots organizing, the activists caught the attention of key political leaders, prompting a reconsideration of the scope of the hydro development. Many of the dams did end up being built, but Tiger Leaping Gorge was protected, and is now part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas , a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Three upcoming Canadian films at VIFF also explore this issue. The impact of hydropower development on communities  is at the heart of : Seeking the Current about the Romaine River in Quebec, Peace Out about the Peace River in BC, and  People of a Feather about the  community of Sanikiluaq in Nunavut.

In WWF-Canada’s freshwater program we’re working to change the rules so environmental flows receive a higher legal priority and so fish and other aquatic species have better rights to water. Water for nature, water for people. We need both.