100 Water Heroes: Yu Xiaogang

Environmentalist  

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Yu Xiaogang is a Chinese Environmentalist who has pioneered cutting-edge watershed management programmes to assist local communities who have been displaced by dam construction. As a result of his work in this field, social impact assessments are now included in mass development projects.

Yu became involved in watershed programmes after writing a social impact assessment as part of his PhD thesis on a dam built at Lashi Lake. This particular dam destroyed the area’s ecosystem, devastating the livelihoods of local fishermen and farmers.

In collaboration with the local community, government and private entrepreneurs, Yu rejuvenated the area, making it one of China’s top 10 sustainable developments. To achieve this, Yu put together a local watershed management committee, a fishery association, poverty alleviation programmes and road-building projects.

At the core of his work, Yu believes in empowering local villagers and does so by involving them in workshops and training programmes. In 2004, he brought 5 village representatives to a UN symposium on dam issues in Beijing. When speaking on the involvement of local communities, Yu stated:

“Having villager participation forever changed the history of the dam decision-making process. In the past, affected peoples were silenced. They had no voice in what happened to them and had to accept decisions made by the government and dam companies.”

Yu is one of our #100WaterHeroes for his development of revolutionary watershed management programmes, and for empowering local communities to be involved in dam decision-making processes.