Nu River Conservation Studies: Biodiversity, Management, and Hydropower Development

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Nu/Salween River originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows south through Thailand and Burma before emptying into the Andaman Sea. It is the western-most river in the “Three Parallel Rivers” UNESCO Wold Heritage Site, and the last major free-flowing river in China.

Remote stretches of the river teem with plant and animal biodiversity that is yet to be fully understood. The area remains a natural gem, and one of the last symbols of China’s wild natural landscape. In the face of development plans for a large cascade of hydropower stations to be built on the Nu, the river has taken center stage in China’s environmental debate.

There are many protected areas along the Nu River, including national reserves, scenic areas, and a National Fisheries Genetic Resources Protected Area for Endemic Fish. Behind the seemingly comprehensive system, management problems such as ambiguous administrative boundaries, overlaps or gaps in responsibility, and differences in categorization pose obstacles to successful coordination of protective measures. 

In this series of reports, International Rivers looks at key arguments for the conservation for the Nu, and provides an overview of the major governing bodies tasked with the protection of the Nu River Basin. 

"The Nu River: A Habitat in Danger," and "Overlooked Plant Biodiversity in Low-Altitude Areas of the Nu River Valley" each give an in-depth look at the fish and plant biodiversity present in the Nu River Basin, and provide critical information for the assessment of hydropower’s potential environmental impact in the Nu River Basin. 

"The Governance of Protected Areas in the Nu River Basin," and "Approval Process for Large Hydropower Projects and Analysis of their Stakeholders" detail case studies of already-existing hydropower projects in the region. They demonstrate how laws and regulations that manage protected areas along the Nu are applied. Through studying these representative examples, we better understand the obstacles to successful protection of the Nu River, and how those obstacles can be addressed. 

More information: 

For more information about International Rivers’ current work on the Nu River, please contact China Program Director Stephanie Jensen-Cormier