CONTEXT:

The 270 MW Jiasa River Hydropower Project is intended to provide electricity to nearby copper and iron mining operations in biodiversity-rich Yunnan Province, which is home to the headwaters of a number of China’s and the region’s rivers. The dam was proposed as part of the planned hydropower expansion throughout Yunnan Province and China as a whole.

PROJECT IMPACTS:

The Jiasa River dam would risk causing the extinction within China of the green peafowl by flooding what is believed to be its last remaining habitat sufficient to sustain the species.  Since 2009, the green peafowl has been listed as endangered under the IUCN’s Red List and categorized by China as a critically endangered species. The drastic decrease in its population within China has been ascribed to dam-building and deforestation within its habitat, among other causes. As of 2018, less than 500 of the birds were estimated to be left in the wild within China, and found along the Jiasa River. The company has been taken to court over impacts to the peafowl.

Biodiversity Snapshot

Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus): considered Endangered according to the IUCN Red List, though populations within China are believed to be less than 500 individuals, thus considered Critically Endangered within China according to China’s Biodiversity Red List.

Green Peafowl

The Green Peafowl is China’s only native peafowl, known for its brilliant plumage. Fewer than 500 remain in China and only about 20,000 of them can be found globally, primarily in Southeast Asia. The green species is an iconic image found throughout China’s ancient works of art and literature, and is referred to as the “king of birds.”

 

Yunnan’s Dai ethnic minority refer to the bird as the Golden Peafowl due to the bird’s apparent ability to alter the color of its feathers due to changes in lighting throughout the day. In addition to habitat destruction, poaching and pesticide pollution have also drastically challenged the ability for birds to live in their natural habitats as humans further encroached on their tropical ecosystems.

AT-RISK SPECIES PROFILE

PROJECT IMPACTS

Lessons

JIASA RIVER

China

Dam that threatens last remaining habitat of China’s Green Peafowl suspended after court rules it would violate China’s Environmental Protection Law

Endangered Green Peafowl

Image by Cuatrok77/Flickr

Site of Jiasa River hydropower project

Image by sourced from Environmental Justice Atlas

Endangered Green Peafowl 

Image by Arddu, CC

Biodiversity Snapshot

Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus): considered Endangered according to the IUCN Red List, though populations within China are believed to be less than 500 individuals, thus considered Critically Endangered within China according to China’s Biodiversity Red List.

Company: Power China

Subsidiary: HydroChina

Impact Category

Critical Habitat

CAPACITY

270 MW

COST

$532 million​

STATUS

Suspended

1.

The 2014 EIA was done according to Chinese national laws; however, it did not consider key evidence that the Green Peafowl lived in the area.

2.

Delays and losses could have been delayed if the environmental assessment had been of higher quality before construction of the diversion tunnel and sloping of the banks for the project.

3.

The EIA was conducted by a shareholder of the dam, and while in compliance with local laws, independent verifications and recommendations by experts on the species would have concluded the habitat’s importance as implied by the court ruling.