Authors: Thomas Ptak*, University of Idaho
Topics: Energy, China
Keywords: Energy, China, Hydropower, Yunnan
Session Type: Paper
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Development of energy infrastructure has long occupied a pivotal role in shaping a range of China's contemporary challenges. As central, provincial and local governments work to address a range of concerns, two core problems endure. First; initiatives to mitigate serious and pressing environmental concerns, such as air, soil and water pollution are ongoing. The second; initiatives promoting development and improving quality of life indicators for communities deemed “backward.” One component of China’s environmental strategy is the move away from a traditional over-reliance on coal fired power. Consequently, generation of hydroelectricity—reflecting a broader shift to renewable generation—has increased substantially in the last decade. In recent years, while many large dams have become mired by a range of social, political and environmental challenges, small operations have proliferated rapidly. One valuable but often overlooked factor driving the rapid development of small operations is a belief by China’s governments that small hydropower acts as a valuable tool for changing social conditions in underdeveloped rural areas, particularly those populated by ethnic minority groups. Due to the dearth of empirical mixed-methods research, not enough is known about the extent to which small operations substantially influence the daily lives in ethnic minority communities. Through ethnographic field work conducted over a five-year period in the Nu river valley of Yunnan Province, this research evaluates the role played by small hydropower development in shaping everyday life in China’s remote and marginalized rural areas.