A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Salween River valley is one of the world’s richest areas in terms of plant biodiversity. This natural wealth, together with the safety of people living in the valley is, however, under threat from massive soil erosion and landslides, mainly triggered by road construction.
As part of a policy to improve rural infrastructure in Yunnan Province, many new roads are being established across the province to link formerly isolated towns and villages. The social and environmental consequences, however, are enormous but at present are poorly regulated.
Together with severe weather events which are predicted as a consequence of climate change, current construction work will lead to more and more catastrophic events and sediment pollution of this once pristine river valley.
Given the threat of future landslides to downstream communities this project has been designed to demonstrate the negative impacts of poor infrastructure planning on social, economic and environmental systems. Based on consultations and on-site mapping, carefully considered bio-engineering approaches will be identified and put into practice, the intention being to help address the identified threats, while allowing construction to proceed. It is thus a scenario of arresting further and potentially irreparable damage, and demonstrating appropriate and affordable best practices of disaster risk reduction.
Working with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, local communities and other partners, key activities of this project will include:
a) field site mapping and modelling to simulate slope stability under a range of criteria;
b) identification of native plant species which are able to play a key role in stabilising slopes;
c) training of young scientists and engineers;
d) building local capacity to implement and manage reforestation and related activities; and
e) transfer of results and knowledge to local stakeholders as well as key ministries, donors and policy makers.
Responsible for this project are the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Montpellier, France, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Yunnan, in collaboration with local villages and communities.