Three Gorges Probe

Three Gorges Probe July 8, 1998

July 8, 1998

(i) Zhu Rongji Heads Three Gorges Project

[TGP/IRN, 06/98] Zhu Rongji, China’s new premier, has been made director of the Three Gorges Project Construction Commission. This personnel change was reported on June 8 by the China News Agency. Future personnel decisions in the commission will be up to Zhu to make. Most of the people on the original committee have kept their jobs but the first deputy director has been replaced by Wu Bangguo, who is also China’s vice premier and not enthusiastic about the project. What all this means in the long term is not very clear, but it certainly indicates the loss of Li Peng’s direct influence and administrative power over the project.

Meanwhile, a number of journalists and environmentalists in China have been organized to conduct more critical reviews and studies of the project. Dissident scientists and engineers at China’s Academy of Science have been invited to start bringing forth their opposing opinions once again to the new government.

(ii) Dam Construction Spurs Archaeological Looting

[IRN, 06/98] The California-based International Rivers Network (IRN) alerted Chinese officials to the New York $2.5 million sale of the bronze Han dynasty spirit tree last May. Yu Weichao, the director of conservation of cultural relics in the Three Gorges area and the director of Beijing’s prestigious National Museum of Chinese History, has since then verified the provenance of the sold piece. It was confirmed that the spirit tree candelabrum was from a Han dynasty burial site called Jiangdongzui in Wushan County, an area to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam. The tomb was disturbed by a bulldozer in preparation for construction of the new Wushan County Seat. The documentation of the tomb noted that the finds, which dated back to the Warring States, Qing and Han Dynasties, were very significant and noted an “eastern Han bronze tree…”

(iii) Vegetation Species in Yangtze Dam Site to Disappear

(TGP, 07/98) About 20 vegetation species scattered around the Yangtze River Dam area will disappear under the water after the dam is built, according to a Xinhua story. Currently, there are 144 vegetation species in the region. Another 16 species which grow in the area 175 metres above the sea level will also face extinction. The most endangered vegetative species include ormosia woods, hard point yellow bamboo, and silk chestnut. There are 4,392 ancient trees in 135 varieties in the dam area too. About seven percent of them will be submerged.

(iv) Meteorological Stations to Forecast Floods for Dam

[CND, 06/98] Chongqing City, upstream from the Three Gorges Dam, plans to invest 70 million yuan ($8.4 million) over the next two years to build a network of 30 radar-equipped meteorological stations, AFP reported quoting Xinhua. The early warning system is believed to improve the accuracy in forecasting torrential rain and other weather trends by up to 10 percent, thus better protecting the Three Gorges Dam project from destructive flash floods, according to an official of the Chongqing Meteorological Bureau.

(v) New Book by Dai Qing Investigates Dam Disasters in China

[TGP, 07/98] Chinese journalist Dai Qing has released a new book of critical essays about the controversial Three Gorges project. The River Dragon Has Come!, published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., (Armonk, NY) in association with Probe International and International Rivers Network, is a stern warning to China’s leaders from prominent Chinese intellectuals, engineers, and journalists about the dam’s potentially disastrous effects on China’s economy, people, and venerable Yangtze River.

The River Dragon Has Come! contains the first-ever independent studies of the effects of pilot resettlement projects in the Yangtze Valley, describing in vivid detail the suffering that may befall the more than 1.9 million Chinese who will eventually have to be moved; it includes the most comprehensive description of the collapse of the Banqiao and Shimantan dams in 1975, a disaster that Chinese officials successfully hid for years even though it claimed over 200,000 lives; and it details the often bitter struggle between China’s government-appointed archaeologists and Communist Party officials over the future of more than 1,200 ancient sites, most of which will be forever drowned by the dam’s massive reservoir.

The book is Dai Qing’s second volume on the dam. Her first, Yangtze! Yangtze!, whose English version was published in 1994 by Earthscan, gave birth to China’s fledgling green movement. However, the book also earned Dai Qing the wrath of Chinese officials, a ten-month prison sentence, and a life-time ban against publishing in China. Today, only “positive reporting” about the Three Gorges Dam is allowed in China.

Three Gorges Probe welcomes submissions. However, it is not a forum for political debate. Rather, Three Gorges Probe is dedicated to covering the scientific, technical, economic, social, and environmental ramifications of completing the Three Gorges Project, as well as the alternatives to the dam.

Publisher: Patricia Adams Executive Editor: Mu Lan ISSN 1481-091

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