Ashley Scott Kelly

Scales of Environmentalism
Waterworks and Environmental Conservation in China (2011-12, 2012-13)

The University of Hong Kong

Instructor: Ashley Scott Kelly

Course abstract
Large dams are among the most singular, monumental constructions of any modernization project. Many of China's conservation efforts are rooted in the construction of waterworks, environmental disasters and mass deforestation of the Mao period, which tends to be eclipsed by the surficial acknowledgment that "opening up" and venturing out has caused widespread environmental catastrophe. Issues of rural poverty, underdevelopment, ambiguous tenure, etc., abound in China's mineral-rich West, where mining operations and plans for hydropower development move hand-in-hand with the delineation and revision of conservation areas and tourism initiatives. A slow-down in dam construction in recent years, despite the high renewable energy targets of the Western Development Campaign, is attributed to local politics.

2013 marked the 30-year anniversary of the first established nature preserve in China's Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Area (TPR). The UNESCO site proper is constituted of 15 core areas, which, connected by buffer zones, amount to eight contiguous "sub-units" spread over an area of 50,000 square kilometers. This fragmentation is not isolated to the TPR area but characteristic of China as a whole, both physically and administratively, illustrating conservation and the creation of wilderness as a political and economic tool. We use hydropower planning as a lens to understand these processes as not resultant from a central planning mechanism, China at-large, but instead developed out of complex political-economic productions institutionalized within conservation, technology and rural development.

This course expands the repertoire of the design disciplines to extra-urban, extra-social geographies of global, paramount importance. It is Design's agency to at once navigate the highly physical controls of mapped boundaries (topography, tenure, resources, etc.) and the political motivations, imaginations, and scientific metrics that necessitate their formation and that may potentially offer a platform for ecological resolution and stewardship. The disciplines' ability to distill complex physical features, coupled with Modernism's historic interest in development planning, is used to narrate several lines of inquiry, including: Seasonal reconnection of lakes with the Yangtze; Resettlement for both energy and conservation; and Rural development via "small hydropower" in Yunnan.

Xijiang regional hydropower construction, resettlement, and regulation. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Xijiang regional hydropower construction, resettlement, and regulation. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Project introduction. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Project introduction. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Urbanization and water delivery infrastructure development of the Pearl River Delta. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Urbanization and water delivery infrastructure development of the Pearl River Delta. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Information visualization for Pearl River Delta hydropower. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Information visualization for Pearl River Delta hydropower. By Vincent WANG Yang, 2012.
Changes in farming practices of ethnic minorities before and after relocation due to hydropower development. By Perry LI, 2012.
Changes in farming practices of ethnic minorities before and after relocation due to hydropower development. By Perry LI, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Viola ZHANG Yucong, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Viola ZHANG Yucong, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Yan LI Haoxin, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Yan LI Haoxin, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Yan LI Haoxin, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By Yan LI Haoxin, 2013.