Research Articles

The influence of large dams building on resettlement in the Upper Mekong River

  • 1. Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco-security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China;
    2. Asian International Rivers Center, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China;
    3. Heifer International China Office, Chengdu 610045, China
Zhang Yong (1975-), Ph.D Candidate, specialized in transboundary eco-security. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-04-20

  Revised date: 2013-05-27

  Online published: 2013-10-15

Supported by

The Key Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.U1202232; National Key Technologies R&D Program of China during the 12th Five-Year Plan Period, No.2013BAB06B03; Key Project of National Social Science Foundation of China, No.11AZD04


This paper seeks to quantify the social and economic impact of resettlement based on the physiographic element changes post relocation. We focus on communities affected by the Nuozhadu hydropower project, the largest existing hydropower project on the mainstream of the Upper Mekong River. Soil and meteorological data were collected from the Soil Spatial Database and the China Terrestrial Ecological Information Spatial Meteorology Database, while social and economic data were collected via field surveys. We have three major conclusions: (1) Communities will be relocated to a new climate and new elevation, moving from a north tropical climate zone under 700 m to a subtropical climate zone above 700 m. (2) Physiographic element changes due to relocation will reduce household economic income. After relocation, the annual family income of the Shidaimao group decreased by 62%; the annual family income of the other 5 study groups (Lasa, Hani, Nochangchangyi, Mengsa, and Dawazi) dropped by 65%. (3) Communities relocated across the study township are 61.1% less connected with their former relatives after relocation while family-to-family free labor exchange, a previous community norm, decreased by 91%. China's dam resettlement compensation system focuses on the loss of economic resources after relocation. However, this study finds that the physiographic elements of the relocation sites are an important driver of ensuring economic growth and stability after relocation. As a result, we recommend more attention be paid to physiographic continuity when designing relocation models.

Cite this article

ZHANG Yong, HE Daming, LU Ying, FENG Yan, Jake REZNICK . The influence of large dams building on resettlement in the Upper Mekong River[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(5) : 947 -957 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1054-2


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