Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three Rivers Running Parallel (三江并流)

The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yunnan province, China. It lies within the watershed areas of the upper reaches of the Yangtze (Jinsha,金沙江), Mekong (Lancang, 澜沧江) and Salween (Nujiang, 怒江) rivers, in the Yunnanese section of the Hengduan Mountains(横断山脉).

The protected areas extend over 15 core areas, totaling 939,441.4 ha, and buffer areas, totaling 758,977.8 ha across a region of 180 km by 310 km. Here, for a distance of over 300 km, three of Asia's great rivers run roughly parallel to one another though separated by high mountain ranges with peaks over 6,000 meters. After this area of near confluence, the rivers greatly diverge: the Nujiang(怒江) empties out at Moulmein, Burma, in to the Indian Ocean, the Mekong south of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in to the South China Sea and the Yangtse flows in to the East China Sea at Shanghai. Selected nature reserves and places of scenic beauty in this unique region were collectively awarded World Heritage Site status in 2003 for their very rich biodiversity and outstanding topographical diversity.

In its description, UNESCO mentions: "(It) may be the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth" and "An exceptional range of topographical features - from gorges to karst to glaciated peaks -- is associated with the site being at a 'collision point' of tectonic plates".

Due to its topography and geographical location, the Three Parallel Rivers region contains many climate types. Average annual precipitation ranges from 4,600mm in the Dulongjian area in the west of Gongshan county(贡山县) to 300mm in the upper valleys of the Yangtse river(长江). The protected areas are home to around 6,000 species of plants, many of which are endemic to the region. The fauna found in the areas includes 173 species of mammals, of which 81 are endemic, and 417 species of birds, of which 22 are endemic.

Although this region has been acknowledged as a natural World Heritage Site, its demographic make-up also is highly interesting as it contains many of the twenty-five minorities found in Yunnan province including the Derung(独龙族), the smallest of all of China's minority groups. Some of the other minorities found in this region are the Tibetan people(藏族), the Nu people(怒族), Lisu(傈僳族), Bai(白族), Pumi(普米族) and Naxi(纳西族). Many of these minorities still use traditional costumes as their normal daily attire.

In the same region as the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas lies the Old Town of Lijiang(丽江), which is also a world heritage site in its own right.

三江并流是指金沙江、澜沧江和怒江这三条发源于青藏高原的大江在云南省境内自北向南并行奔流170多公里, 穿越担当力卡山、高黎贡山、怒山和云岭等崇山峻岭之间,形成世界上罕见的“江水并流而不交汇”的奇特自然地理景观。其间澜沧江与金沙江最短直线距离为66 公里, 澜沧江与怒江的最短直线距离不到19公里。


(source: wikipedia)

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