Participatory Community Watershed Management for a Clean Safe Water Supply for Shangri-la

2008 Winner

TMI was established in 1972 in West Virginia, where its work focused on experiential and leadership education for West Virginia's youth. This work was based at a 400-acre nature preserve on the slopes of West Virginia's highest mountain, Spruce Knob. TMI formally expanded into an international organization in 1987, when it assisted in the establishment of two new protected areas in Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Regional TMI offices were established in Nepal and Peru a few years later.


Ensure clean and safe water supply for Shangri-la Town, China, by facilitating multi-stakeholder collaboration in a dynamic reservoir watershed model through strengthening leadership at local and community levels by innovating replicable, transferable management practices and forming dialogue platforms which of water sources and watersheds. Further current threats have to be clarified and the dissemination of pioneering solutions has to be catalyzed.

Project Description

To maintain good water quality and water flow the Mountain Institute (TMI) followed a bottom-up and multi-stakeholder approach. First TMI held workshop discussions to developed agreements on perspectives and approaches with the affected governmental bureaus, the village committees and representatives of the catchment communities. After these discussions the Sangna Reservoir Bureau and TMI designed an activity plan for the catchment area. The actions undertaken were agreed by all stakeholders and based on Improved Management Practices. The project required that communities agreed with the management regulations for all collective assets created, including infrastructure and afforestation plots.

Country / Region

The project site lies in the UNESCO Three Parallel Rivers World Natural Heritage Site, which is in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province at about 3200 meters above sea level. This biodiversity hotspot has an outstanding ecological, biological and cultural diversity and beauty. It is surrounded by sub-alpine rangelands and forests with over 100 peaks rising over 4000 m.


Shangri-la Town inhabitates 48’000 people and more than 1.5 mio tourists visit the region every year.

Information about local context

In 2002 Sangna Reservoir was built to meet urban freshwater demand, which is fed by the Sangna River. It is 18 km long and the whole catchment area comprises of 75 km2. The Sangna Catchment area consists of 5 communities with 1240 inhabitants. Their livelihood depends on the cultivation of 170 ha of rainfed arable land and they raise cattle, sheep and pigs. People living in the Sangna River watershed area are very poor and not earning more than $ 150 per annum. The Sangna River water flow and water quality is suffering from poor forest management, human waste through the lack of toilets and facilities to dispose the refuse. Beside this, people are logging the forest for fuel wood for cooking and heating.

Chances / Risks

During the project stakeholders weren’t able to agree upon a strategy for trash disposal and an appropriate site for garbage collection. Villagers were concerned about smell and piled debris and an appropriate model of trash disposal given the environmental sensitivity of the watershed.

Participation of the communities

The villagers have been involved in the projects together with the local and regional government from the beginning.

Project monitoring

The monitoring of the project after the end of the Swiss Re Foundation funded projects is done by the Sangna Reservoir Community Watershed Management Committee.

Project update 2009

The Sangna Reservoir Community Watershed Management Committee has been established in the beginning of the project, and is responsible for the project implementation, household participation and stakeholder engagement. Rules and regulations for the management of the watershed have been agreed upon by the stakeholders. Within the project a total of seven four-in-one biogas systems were installed successfully. After first hesitation of the local people they started to show interest, especially after operation of the installed biogas systems. TMI signed a contract with People’s Government of Shangrila and a local construction company to formalize work and facilitate local ownership and responsibility. At the end of 2009 the government started to conceive an integrated watershed management plan with funding for refuse collection and recycling points.

Submitted by: 
The Mountain Institute
Project period: 
Project legal form: 
Last update: 
Award year: 

The Mountain Institute
Andreas Wilkes /Naomi Hellmann