Geographic Introduction

The region of the Three Valleys (called in Chinese the Three Rivers 三江并流) is located in the North of the Yunnan Province, in South-West China, bordering Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Tibet and Sichuan. This province covers an area of approximately 50 million km2 with a population of about 56 million people.

Three of the biggest Asian rivers flow through this area in parallel from north to south. These are the Salween flowing to Burma and ending in the India Ocean, the Mekong flowing to Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam to the South China Sea, and the Yangtze, called here the River of Golden Sands, flowing within China to Shanghai and the East China Sea.

The deep valleys formed by these giants have always been a cradle for cultural influences and biodiversity, lying at the intersection of four eco-regions and cultural worlds: India, China, South-East Asia and Central Asia. Is is not only a place a great cultural and ethnic diversity (see Human Introduction) but also at the heart of one of the world's richest regions in terms of biodiversity. The area is believed to support over 25% of the world's animal species and over 50% of China's, as well as 20% of China's higher plants. As an example, there are more than 200 species of rhododendrons. There is also a concentration of the country's rare and endangered animals, such as the snow leopard, the endemic Yunnan snubfaced monkey or the musk deer.

After a monitoring mission, UNESCO has accepted in July 2003 the inclusion of about 1.7 million hectares of the Three Valleys of Yunnan Province, with altitudes ranging from 760 m. to 6743 m., on the list of the World Heritage.

The Foundation will be mainly active in two prefectures, the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. These two prefectures have a total population of about 820,000 people for an area of 38,173 km2, about the size of Switzerland or Taiwan.

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