Award of 2009. The award announcement was made today by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation
(RMAF). In honouring Yu Xiaogang, the Foundation said, “He is being
recognized for his fusing the knowledge and tools of social science
with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting dam-affected
communities in China to shape the development projects that impact
their natural environment and their lives.”An alumnus of AIT, Yu Xiaogang acquired his M.Sc. degree from the
School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD) in 1993. He
also worked as a research associate at SERD.
RMAF President, Carmencita T. Abella while describing the Magsaysay
awardees of 2009 said, the awardees "are true Asian Heroes, putting
their advanced knowledge and skills at the service of critical needs of
their people. They are, each one, addressing major issues affecting the
growth and preservation of their respective societies - health care,
mass poverty, community displacement, environmental degradation, human
rights. They are each using calibrated strategies to craft lasting
solutions to problems besetting their people. Nevertheless, these six
awardees share a greatness of spirit which infuses their leadership for
change. They all build collaboration and seek consensus wherever
possible. They all refuse to give up, despite adversity and opposition.
Four of them share a passionate concern for the environment, which the
Foundation wishes to give special attention to at this time”.
The six 2009 Magsaysay awardees join 271 other laureates who have
received Asia's highest honor to date. This year's Magsaysay Award
winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the
likeness of the late President, and a cash prize. They will be formally
conferred the Magsaysay Award during the Presentation Ceremonies to be
held on 31 August 2009 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, to
which the public is cordially invited.
Other awardees are Krisana Kraisintu, from Thailand, Deep Joshi, from
India, Antonio Oposa, Jr., from the Philippines, Ma Jun, from China,
and Ka Hsaw Wa, from Burma.
While announcing the award, RMAF
having been raised in Yunnan, a province of amazing beauty and home to
three of the largest rivers in the world: Nu, Yangtze, and Mekong. His
interest in the environment was cultivated during a stint in the Yunnan
Academy of Social Sciences, and was further deepened when he attended
the Asian Institute of Technology, where he earned a master's degree in
His graduate research on the social impact of China's Manwan
hydroelectric project documented its negative impact on local
communities. Dissemination of his findings stirred controversy and led
then Premier Zhu Rongji to order the conduct of an investigation;
additionally, the Yunnan government was instructed to release funds to
mitigate the dam's adverse effects.In 2002, Yu established the nonprofit organization Green Watershed,
which developed an integrated watershed management program in the Lashi
Lake area, in Yunnan. Lashi was seriously affected by a dam project
that had diverted 40 percent of the lake's water, flooded farmlands,
and devastated the livelihood of people in the dammed area. Using
participatory approaches, Green Watershed helped the affected
communities organize a multisectoral Watershed Management Committee,
and mobilized village associations for irrigation, fishery, and other
purposes. The communities undertook other activities as well, including
microcredit and training in watershed forest protection and
These initiatives proved so successful that new,
ecologically-friendly, and profitable enterprises flourished in the
area. The first of its kind in China, the Lashi project became a model
for participatory watershed management, and was cited by government as
one of the top ten cases of sustainable development in the country. The
Lashi project became the springboard for Yu's advocacy in other dam
sites. Green Watershed conducted research and forums and used mass
media to promote the cause of people's participation in the planning
and development of dams.
When the local government announced plans to build thirteen new dams
on the Nu River, plans that threatened to displace fifty thousand
people and negatively impact a UNESCO-designated "World Heritage"
nature site, Green Watershed and other environmental NGOs mounted a
public debate. The controversy occasioned Premier Wen Jiabao's decision
to put the planned dams on hold, requiring a more scientific
Still, it has been an uphill challenge. Yu has met with opposition and
even harassment in the course of his work, including a ban on travel
outside the country. His position, however, is not simply adversarial.
In 2008, he initiated Green Banking, a network of eight major
environmental NGOs that gives the "Green Banking Innovation Award" to
banks and financial institutions that have contributed to environmental
protection in their financing and corporate practices.
Yu recognizes that large-scale infrastructure projects like dams will
go on. He is not against dams per se; however he and his fellow
environmentalists will persist in showing that local communities and
ecosystems need not be sacrificed in the process of development. Thus,
he advocates that a true social impact assessment, in which the people
themselves are actively involved, should be a precondition in all dam
building programs. For Yu, their initial successes "are only the first
steps in the Long March. To realize true sustainable development and
build a harmonious society throughout China, we need the full
participation of all Chinese citizens."
In electing Yu Xiaogang to receive the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the
board of trustees recognizes his fusing the knowledge and tools of
social science with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting
dam-affected communities in China to shape the development projects
that impact their natural environment and their lives".