Three Gorges Probe
April 5, 1995
Smuggling and Theft of Priceless Artifacts Also Expected as Construction of Dam Continues
China is being overwhelmed by a "tourist fever to bid farewell to Three Gorges," and officials fear the situation "presents a serious threat to public security and order in tourist areas," according to internal security documents leaked to Human Rights Watch/Asia.
Although officials insist "the charm of the Three Gorges landscape will remain and become even more magnificent after the completion of the dam,"thousands of tourists are flocking to the Three Gorges now, anxious to view the scenery before it is flooded. Seventy thousand tourists visited the area between May 1 and May 10, 1993, according to one of the confidential reports. Security authorities say that despite the best efforts of the local government and police forces, "fights over tour boat places or food and lodging constantly broke out." According to the leaked documents, "more than thirty cases of violence with relatively serious consequences" occurred and Chinese officials expect violations of public safety and the personal safety of citizens to become more serious. Authorities also admit they are ill-prepared to deal with the serious threat to public security that the massive influx of tourists will bring.
If completed, the dam on China’s Yangtze River will be the world’s largest, creating an inland sea the length of North America’s Lake Superior and submerging more than 100 towns and villages. The project will forcibly resettle 1.3 million people and flood thousands of hectares of the best farmland in China. The area to be flooded is the cradle of Chinese civilization and an inspiration to China’s most famous artists and poets.
In addition to civil unrest, officials expect theft of cultural artifacts still buried along the banks of the Yangtze to occur. The Yangtze River valley is rich in archeological treasures– some dating back to 10,000 B.C. Security officials from Hubei Province admit in one of the internal reports that "crimes of theft and smuggling will certainly occur."
Although several archeological sites have already been chosen for preservation, including a number of stone temples that will have to be taken apart and then reassembled in new locations, according to the New York Times, it is unlikely that China’s archaeologists will have the time, the people and the money to excavate the hundreds of square kilometres of river bank that remain unexplored.
Beijing defends the megadam, saying it will generate needed electricity, provide flood control, and ease navigation on the Yangtze. However, according to preeminent dam building organizations like the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the World Bank, the Three Gorges project is not environmentally or economically viable.
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