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The town of Déqīn, lies in an alpine valley 6hrs north of Zhongdian by bus. It is the nearest town to the numinous Meilixueshan in nw Yunnan.

Yunnan's Deqin County lies between the Mekong and Yangtze rivers in the western part of this ecoregion. It is bordered by Sichuan province to the north and Tibet to the west. With elevations between 1500 and 5400 meters, the county is characterized by deep valleys and tall mountains, which have created extremely diverse climate, soil, and vegetation patterns, and unique and fragile ecosystems.

Deqin county is sparsely populated, with just 7.75 people/sq km and Tibetans accounting for 80% of the total population of 58,168 people. Although no official statistics are available, it is almost certain that incomes have decreased here since the national ban on logging was imposed in 1998. As of 1997, 63% of the population were officially in poverty with an average per capita income of 607 RMB (US$75).

Environmental degradation is both a cause and a consequence of poverty in Deqin. In general, poverty tends to limit farmers' choices of viable economic alternatives, and this can lead them to use resources unsustainably. Food shortage is a serious problem for poor households in Deqin, and because they lack funds to invest in intensification, expansion of cropping area has historically been the preferred strategy. Opening up of new farmland on steep, forested slopes has destroyed forests and led to serious soil erosion and flooding. The dependence of the poor on fuelwood, both for energy and a source of income, is a factor in the degradation of forests near settlements. Finally, the damage caused by overgrazing is related to the fact that livestock provides the only source of meat and milk.

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