Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2006, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (2): 146-156.doi: 10.11821/xb200602004

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Residents' Response to Environmental Degradation: Case Studies from Three Villages in the Upper Dadu River Watershed

YAN Jianzhong1,2, ZHANG Yili2, BAI Wanqi2, ZHU Huiyi2, ZHENG Du2   

  1. 1. College of Resources & Environment, Southwest University, Chongqing 400716, China;
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2005-03-22 Revised:2005-10-17 Online:2006-02-25 Published:2010-09-06
  • Supported by:

    National Basic Research Program of China, No.2005CB422006; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40471009; No.40261003; No30270256; Knowledge Innovation Project, No.KZCX3-SW-339


Environmental degeneration in the Tibetan Plateau has attracted great attention worldwide. However, case studies on how the residents understand and respond to environmental degeneration are scarce. Using Participatory Rural Appraisal method, this paper investigated how the people in different regions in the upper reaches of the Dadu River watershed understood and responded to environmental degradation, based on comparative field surveys in three villages, in which Danzamu village chosen from villages in the valley region, Kerma village from mountainside region and Rico village from mountain and plateau region. The results show that: (1) although realizing environmental degeneration, the villages in different regions responded diversely. As labor forces were transferred to the secondary and tertiary industries, population pressure in Danzamu and Kerma villages were relaxed. Residents in Danzamu village actively responded to natural hazards and forest degradation, as their livelihoods never relied on forest and rangeland. Whereas, the residents in Kerma village passively responded to natural hazards, forest and meadow degradation and exhausting of wildlife resources, as their livelihoods still relied on animal husbandry. Labor forces in Rico village were hard to be transferred to the secondary and tertiary industries, so they had to raise more livestock to make a living. Active measures were taken to avoid climate induced loss, not to avoid forest and meadow degradation and exhausting of wildlife resources. So the most fragile regions are the mountain and plateau region and mountainside region, not the valley region. (2) Livelihood strategy is the key factor affecting the villages to respond to population pressure and environmental degradation. So the framework of livelihood strategy should be used to explain and intervene in issues of population pressure and environmental degradation in ecotones. (3) Transferring labor forces to the secondary and tertiary industries was in favor of improving people's living standard. It is necessary to reduce education fee to speed up the pace of labor forces transferring in mountainside region. In mountain and plateau region, preferable ways also include development of towns, highways, education equipments and other establishments and, above all, the industrialization of traditional animal husbandry.

Key words: environmental degradation, response, the upper Dadu River watershed, livelihood strategy, Tibetan Plateau