CHENNAI: That the Chinese administration retaliates with force even at the slightest provocation is a recorded fact. In a land where digressing from the State’s opinion can put you in trouble, some would claim Yu Xiaogang had done the impossible.
An environmental activist and a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, Yu Xiaogang’s sustained movement against building colossal dams in China brought a profound change in the country’s banking policy.
In 2012, 15 years after he launched the environment group Green Watershed, the Chinese government came out with a comprehensive Green Credit Guidance (GCG), which imposed several restrictions that guided banks that lent to large, potentially environment-threatening projects.
It all began in the spring of 1998. After the construction of a hydel power project in Lashi Lake in the Hengduan mountain range, the region was exposed to severe flooding that devastated livelihoods and buried the sensitive ecosystem.
Yu Xiaogang began his mission of recording the damage and organised programmes, despite threats of punitive action, that helped create awareness on the social disaster and restore people’s lives. It made him realise the importance impact assessments played in advocacy.
When companies announced the building of 33 dams around the country - 13 across the Nu River alone - in 2003 to tap hydel power, Xiaogang launched a massive campaign where he brought people, who would be affected by the projects, to Lashi Lake dam and showed them how it had wreaked havoc on the local community.
“We started training programmes where we taught people how to conduct environment and social impact studies. We then sent those assessments along with a plea to stop the projects to the Chinese Premier,” says the sanguine looking activist, who spoke to Express on the sidelines of a conference on Sunday.