Asian International Rivers Center

The AIRC, established at Yunnan University in October 2000, is centered around a research team assembled by Professor HE Daming and builds upon more than ten years of research on international rivers. The Center is the first not-for-profit organization in China devoted to the study of international rivers and watersheds. The primary goal of the AIRC is to generate theoretical and practical research on transboundary rivers in China and elsewhere in Asia, and on associated questions of natural resources and ecological security. At the same time, the AIRC aims to provide basic information regarding such topics, and to serve as a base for training a new cadre of professionals who understand the complex issues related to transboundary rivers. Professor He, the AIRC”s founder, currently serves as director, professor, and 973 Project Chairman.

Since 1980, AIRC-affiliated researchers have participated in cooperative projects both domestically and internationally and established some of the groundbreaking cooperative work in China regarding transboundary water resources. This includes comprehensive research on 13 important international rivers in China and case studies on 15 transboundary rivers worldwide, along with a series of research projects on the Lancang-Mekong watershed and natural resources in southwestern China. We have also undertaken projects funded by the National 973 Plan, key projects supported by the Chinese and Yunnan Natural Science Foundations, and science and technology advancement projects supported by the Chinese and Yunnan Science and Technology apparatus, as well as more than 50 collaborative projects involving international organizations, the State Council, and associated national and provincial government departments.

In 2003, the AIRC was awarded a grant to support research on “Longitudinal Range Gorge Ecosystem Change and Southwestern China Ecological Security” as part of the 973 Plan. The Plan aims to invest some 50 million Yuan in five-year (2003-2008) in multidisciplinary scientific research projects throughout China led by over 100 researchers. All projects are focused on developing a solid theoretical base for understanding changes in transboundary ecosystem diversity and ecological security, and aim to make China a worldwide leader in this important field.

The ongoing research effort at the AIRC has led to the publication of more than 30 books, over 300 research articles, and over 100 research reports. Many of these have made important contributions to national and local government policy and planning. In recognition of this contribution, the AIRC has been awarded over ten first, second, and third prizes for science and technology advancement at the provincial level. Contributions include an information and policy support system for comprehensive use and coordinated management of international rivers, Chinese and English websites and online publications for use by Chinese and international professionals, and several important academic conferences and meetings held in conjunction with partner organizations in China and abroad. The AIRC has built stable cooperative relations with more than 30 universities and research institutions outside China, which has led to the establishment of web-based resources related to transboundary waters, as well as the hosting of several foreign visiting scholars and Ph.D. students. The AIRC has a solid research team, 70% of whom hold doctoral degrees, and is accredited to train Ph.D. and masters students in transborder ecological security and watershed ecological security. Based on its cutting edge research in these timely and important topics, the AIRC is rapidly gaining domestic and international renown and influence.

Current research foci at the AIRC include International River Use and Management; Transboundary Water Resource Use, Allocation, and Management; Transboundary Ecological Security and Regulation; Borderland Transboundary Biodiversity Preservation; and Transboundary Ecosystem Change, Impact Assessment, and Management. Research in these areas is of fundamental importance to China”s ecological security, borderlands policies, economic cooperation initiatives, and environmental diplomacy goals. The AIRC is committed to training a high-level cadre of researchers who can serve in academic and government positions, gradually opening windows and building bridges for China”s important ecological, natural resource, and socioeconomic questions that China and its neighbors will face in the 21st century.