China must do more to protect its UNESCO natural heritage sites - Greenpeace

Press release - 2016-07-27
Beijing, 27 July, 2016 - A Greenpeace East Asia investigation into China’s remaining Intact Forest Landscape (IFL) [1] has shown that key areas of IFL in northwest Yunnan Province are being damaged by mining activities. Moreover, three of the 24 mining sites identified are located in the Three Parallel Rivers UNESCO world natural heritage site, in direct violation of UNESCO regulations and the Yunnan provincial government’s assurance to UNESCO. The Three Parallel Rivers region and its IFL are some of the most biologically diverse regions on earth, and should be strictly protected from human interference. Greenpeace calls on the Chinese government to include these regions in the upcoming ‘ecological redlines’ protection programme and to ensure the full and effective protection of China’s UNESCO world heritage sites.

“The intact forest landscapes of northwestern Yunnan are both a national and a global treasure,” said head of China oceans and forest campaign, Rashid Kang. “Now the country with the second largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites, and with more in the pipeline, China must assure the world that it can effectively protect these globally significant areas.”

“As China readies to draw up its new system of ecosystem protection, the ecological redlines, it is vital that protection of UNESCO sites and other intact forest landscapes are taken into account.”

Greenpeace’s investigation was conducted through a combination of satellite imagery analysis and field visits. Greenpeace discovered that 490,000 hectares of IFL in China were lost during the period 2000-2013, over half of which (270,000 hectares) occurred in the northwestern region of Yunnan Province. IFL now accounts for just 3.34% of China’s forest areas.

According to UNESCO, the Three Parallel Rivers region of Yunnan “may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth”. [2]

The three mines operating in the world heritage site are engaged in antimony, tungsten and molybdenum mining. Their operations and the transport links they have constructed have caused considerable damage to the surrounding hillsides, including deforestation, creating risks of landslides, and potential tailings (waste water) pollution. Desktop research also showed that one of the mines, the Xiuwachu Tungsten and Molybdenum Ore Mine, is suspected of never having applied for an Environmental Impact Assessment, a requirement under Chinese law.

A further 21 mines were found to be located in areas of invaluable IFL. Their activities, too, must be reined in. 

Greenpeace demands that all mining operations in IFL, and especially those located within the UNESCO world heritage site, be shut down immediately and ecological restoration begin. Greenpeace also calls on the Yunnan government to include Yunnan’s IFL in its forthcoming ‘ecological redlines’ plan and use the new policy to ensure the stability and integrity of these unique and rare ecosystems.


Notes to editor:

[1] IFL definition: An unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, showing no signs of significant human activity and large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained.



Media Contacts:

Tom Baxter,
International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia,
phone: +86 188 1134 4861

Greenpeace International Press Desk
email: ,
phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours) 

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