Three Gorges Probe

Background report: Resettlement problems of the Three Gorges dam (part II)

by Wu Ming
August 24, 1998

Earlier this year, sociologist Wu Ming travelled to the counties around the Three Gorges Dam. Here is the second excerpt from his study, published by the International Rivers Network in March, 1998.

III. Farmers Lose Most Bureaucratic indifference to the grievances of rural resettlers and their low social status mean that their needs and problems are the most likely to be ignored. A major grievance of many farmers is the lack of basic information and consultation about their future. For example, farmers who live below the 135-meter mark in Yunyang, Fengjie and Wushan counties said that they know they would have to relocate before the year 2003 because the reservoir is scheduled to inundate their homes and land by then. But most of the farmers I interviewed said that they still did not know where they would be relocated to, or exactly how much compensation they would receive. Compensation rates vary widely across the area, as well as between locations classified as urban and rural, and there has been no indication of whether compensation will be adjusted to reflect inflation. The value of the farmers’ property, the cost of moving and the price of construction materials to build new houses were calculated in 1992.

Adding to the farmers’ anxiety is official corruption, which raises the question of whether they will see any compensation money at all. Every farmer I interviewed mentioned cases of officials who had embezzled resettlement funds or taken bribes for awarding construction contracts. In Yunyang County for example, eight officials were fired last year for taking bribes. They were a deputy county magistrate in charge of resettlement, and the chairman and six deputies of a committee in charge of building Yunyang’s new county seat. The officials had taken bribes from land reclamation and construction contractors eager to profit from the reclamation of new farmland and the construction of roads, schools, apartments, health clinics and office buildings.

According to one county official, it is nearly impossible to stop corruption among bureaucrats at the township and village levels. The problem is related to the constant personnel changes at these lowest levels of the bureaucratic system, he said, a pattern that is occurring in other parts of China as well. But in the Three Gorges region, it means local cadres have little incentive to deal with what may seem like virtually insoluble difficulties in the resettlement program. “There is a prevalent feeling among low-level cadres that it would be a wasted opportunity not to make some money out of the resettlement program while they have the power to do so,” said the county official. “Once they have the money in their pockets, they voluntarily resign and disappear. Even if we find out about cases of bribery and embezzlement, it is very hard to punish the culprits. We simply cannot find them anymore.”

A more serious threat to rural resettlers is the institutionalized discrimination they face in the official assessment of compensation according to residential status. Families that are registered as rural households receive less housing compensation than do urban residents, even though the cost of construction materials is the same for both. For example, in Yunyang County, compensation for every square meter of brick and concrete buildings is 300 yuan for county-seat residents, 225 yuan for township-seat residents and 180 yuan for rural residents. In Zigui, the rates are 480 yuan, 200 yuan and 150 yuan. Many farmers who were interviewed said, often in very emotional terms, that they regarded the compensation as insufficient to reestablish their homes.

(To be continued)

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 1481-0913

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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