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Video: Energy vs Environment in Yunnan

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When discussing China's environmental movement, few areas of the country get as much attention domestically or internationally as Yunnan does.

The reasons are plentiful: Yunnan is China's most biodiverse region, it is home to around half of the country's minority groups, it possesses massive hydropower potential and after a bit of a late start it is now fully on the economic development bandwagon.

Home to the headwaters of the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween rivers, Yunnan's abundant natural resources support not only Yunnanese but also millions of people elsewhere in China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Because of this, what happens in Yunnan has ramifications beyond the province.

China's Green Beat has recently produced two Yunnan-focused clips, the above piece looks at the Nu River, one of the two rivers left in China that has yet to be dammed. Although the Yunnan government appears determined to dam the river, there are hydropower options that would likely be able to electrify local villages.

However, exporting hydroelectric power has become big business for Yunnan, which sends electricity to markets including Hong Kong and Vietnam. For this reason alone, it is difficult to imagine the current plans to dam the Nu to be shelved by the provincial or central governments.

This second clip focuses on the consumption of biofuel in Lijiang. Overcollection of wood for fuelling inefficient stoves is one of the main threats to that region's ecological balance and biodiversity – the smoke from the primitive stoves is also responsible for eye disease among the local elderly.

More efficient stoves are being introduced to the region, reducing the average villager's wood consumption from 50 kilograms/day to only 15. These stoves also eliminate the danger of eye disease from cooking one's daily meal. This piece also takes a look at biofuel as a source of gas for cooking and fertilizer for food.

Related articles:

Official: Yunnan still hopes to dam Nu River

Video: Kunming's no-car days

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