China's Three Gorges dam drives a million from their homes

From: Patrick Salsbury (patrick_at_clari.net)
Date: 11/06/97


Message-ID: <34623150.4177@clari.net>
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 1997 13:06:24 -0800
From: Patrick Salsbury <patrick_at_clari.net>
Subject: China's Three Gorges dam drives a million from their homes


More about the dam in China...

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ClariNet story CHINA-DAM from AFP / Leu Siew Ying [Logo [Nov 6]

China's Three Gorges dam drives a million from their homes

Copyright 1997 by Agence France-Presse / Thu, 6 Nov 1997 12:39:01 PST

CHONGQING, China, Nov 6 (AFP) - More than a [Photo [Thu, Nov 6]
million people will see their ancestral
homes flooded when China's mighty Yangtze YICHANG, CHINA, 6-NOV-1997:
River is diverted under the massive Three Visitors lounge among models
Gorges hydro-electric dam project. of villages and temples along
                                              the Yangtze River which will
The damming of the Yangtze, the world's be flooded by the Three Gorges
third longest river, to a height of 175 dam project, November 5 at the
metres (577.5 feet) from the present water Minature Three Gorges Park at
level will steal much of the breath-taking Yichang, China. On November 8
beauty of the Three Gorges which have long Prime Minister Li Peng will
been one of China's most famous tourist preside over the river
sites. diversion ceremony, marking
                                              the end of the first phase of
An unprecedented 1.2 million people from 20 the three-phase, 17-billion
counties and cities will be displaced by dollar project so the
the inundation of a 632-square-kilometre construction of the world's
(252.8 square mile) area along the river most powerful dam can begin.
valley in central China by 2009. [Photo by Robyn Beck, AFP]

Not only will the rising waters displace populations currently living along
the banks of the world's third largest river, but they will also drown much
of the Yangtze Valley's flora and fauna and some archaeological treasures,
including a 1,600-metre (5,280 feet) natural stone beam on which
hydrological data has been carved since 764 AD.

The damming will alter the natural habitat of the endangered white-flag
dolphin and Chinese sturgeon with changes in sluicing flows and channel.

When relocation efforts began in 1992, local peasants resisted leaving their
ancestral homes saying they would rather be buried in water.

But as engineers prepare to divert the river's course Saturday to create a
dry site for the construction of the world's biggest dam, resettlers were
heard speaking of the opportunity given them to improve their lives and
collect compensation money.

In the reservoir area from Chongqing city to Yichang in Hubei province,
peasants have gladly traded in dirt-floor and mud-walled homes for spacious
concrete houses built partly with compensation money and partly with savings
and loans.

"If not for the Three Gorges project, I would not have been able to move
into this house," farmer Liang Xianhai said in his living room in a
double-storey home on a ridge overlooking the river.

With survival instincts dominating, Liang, like his neighbours in Santou new
village in Wanxian county where 800,000 people will be displaced, had asked
architects to include a pigsty in the house to make it more convenient to
care for the animals in winter.

On his walls hangs a portrait of Mao and a poster of a Western style living
room with a leather-covered settee, air conditioner, potted plants and
marble floor.

"In five years, my income will increase by 30 percent. I will be able to
have a living room like that," Liang, 41, said. "It would not be possible if
not for the dam."

The annual per capita income in the Yangtze River region, where farmers grow
tangerines, rice, corn and sweet potatoes and raise pigs, is now 1,200 yuan
(144 dollars).

Santou villagers can expect their income to rise as they go into fish
farming and transportation to markets improves but the future is less bright
for villagers resettled high in the mountains where land is sparse and poor.

"Here we will be able to get only 400 jin (about 200 kilograms) of rice
compared to 800 jin (400 kilograms) from our present farm," said Jing
Banjia, 68, sitting on a bamboo chair outside his new house in Guihua
village near Wuxia Gorge.

The double-storey linked house is bare and will remain so while Jing's son
continues to till their ancestral land until the waters drive them out.

Several doors away, 20-year-old Deng Yizhi sits knitting outside a
sparsely-stocked sundry shop where she has been assigned to work since
leaving school.

"They say the dam will bring us benefits. It's nice to hear these words but
I don't know whether they can do it," she said.

Despite their poverty, resettlers in Guihua village had borrowed heavily, up
to 70 percent on the cost, in order to build bigger houses.

On a river landing in Yunyang where red-curtained sedans wait to haul
tourists up the steps to Zhang Fei temple, a group of farmers and souvenir
storeholders gathered around visiting foreign journalists complaining about
the distribution of compensation funds.

"The officials are corrupt. They do not give us all the money we are
entitled to," the farmers said.

A state council official said the farmers did not know the funds were partly
given to displaced people to settle into new homes and partly given to
villages and towns for productive development.

"We cannot rule out corruption but the high-ranking officials are honest.
They know the penalty for abusing compensation funds are as severe as that
for abusing disaster relief funds," he said.

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                         THREE GORGES DAM, CHINA, 6-NOV-1997: Dam workers
                         pass a giant Chinese flag at the main ceremony
                         site for the upcoming diversion of the Yangtze
                         River for the Three Gorges Dam project November 6
                         on China's Yangtze River. President Jiang Zemin
                         and Premier Li Peng will preside the historic
 [Photo [Thu, Nov 6] November 8 diversion of the world's third longest
                         river. While critics call the project a cultural
                         and environmental disaster which will displace
                         1.9 million people as it submerges forever
                         cities, farms and archeological sites, the
                         government promises the dam will control flooding
                         and provide massive energy generation and
                         commercial benefits to the region. [Photo by AFP]

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