Three Gorges Probe

Migrants’ appeal falls on deaf ears

A Three Gorges Probe Exclusive
December 13, 2001

This letter, written by farmers moved from Wushan county in 1997 to make way for the Three Gorges dam, was submitted to officials in June of last year, but has only recently come to light. It provides moving evidence of the extreme hardships the migrants have faced in the new location and documents a litany of broken promises by resettlement officials.


To the Three Gorges Project Headquarters,

We are migrants who have been displaced by the Three Gorges dam from Wangxia, Nanling and Shibei townships, Wushan county, Chongqing municipality. In the spring of 1997, 250 of us from 65 households were mobilized to be resettled in the Qixing (Seven Stars) Resettlement Development Zone, where the hillsides, devoid of trees and grass, contain several strips of newly terraced fields, but are otherwise quite bare.

We have been further frustrated by the zone’s lack of facilities and infrastructure, such as roads, water and electricity. Aware of our reluctance to move, officials from different levels of government came and lobbied us to relocate by promising: “After your resettlement, we guarantee you three things: New roads will be built, and both water and electricity will be provided. Qixing is a great place to live.”

To heed the Party’s call and support the construction of the Three Gorges dam, we abandoned our homes and our ancestral land and resettled in Qixing in the autumn of 1997. To our dismay, the authorities have not kept their word and, four years on, have still failed to keep their promises.

First, Qixing lacks a source of drinking water. The authorities promised to provide water for us once we moved here, but still there is none. We are struggling to survive by collecting rain on the roofs of our houses and walking long distances to fetch water from several dirty ponds. Many of us have become ill after drinking the contaminated water.

Second, electricity is still a problem. We were promised a reliable supply of electricity after our relocation, but the county government and county resettlement bureau have turned a deaf ear to our repeated complaints. We have been forced to set up our own dangerous, makeshift web of power lines supported on sticks.

Third, the greatest difficulty we face relates to the poor quality of the newly developed farmland. As you know, we depend on the land for our basic livelihood and ultimate security. But the land we have been given is too infertile to farm – most is just bare rock, without soil.

To water our crops, we managed to build several irrigation ponds, but the local conditions are so poor that the ponds cannot hold any water. The central government budgeted about 10 million yuan RMB [US$1.2 million] to build drip-irrigation systems, and the pipes have been installed here and there. But, to our surprise, no irrigation water has actually been available for our land.

To prepare for inspection tours by higher authorities, local officials brought in soil to cover the bare land beside the roads that they knew the officials would travel along, while 90 per cent of the newly developed land was neglected. As a result, almost half the migrants who moved here have become jobless, with no land to farm or other work to do. Many of us have had to borrow about 1,000 yuan RMB to maintain our households here.

According to the central government’s resettlement policy, relocation should promote a higher standard of living and provide people in the reservoir area with a chance to escape poverty. From our own experience, and contrary to the government’s commitments, we are not going to have a better life here but will die of starvation if the current situation is allowed to persist.

We have repeatedly complained to various levels of government about our hardships and difficulties, in letters and in face-to-face meetings. Unfortunately, nobody has really cared about our suffering and grievances. We have come to know that local officials have tried every possible means to cheat the central government and to pocket money earmarked for the resettlement program, caring little for migrants’ lives and livelihoods.

Fourth, according to the resettlement policy issued by the central government, we should not only be compensated for our losses – the farmland, houses, trees and fruit orchards lost to the reservoir – but also subsidized during the period of displacement and resettlement as we rebuild our lives. However, apart from money for our old houses, we have received no other compensation, and we trust that the higher authorities will investigate this matter further.

Finally, according to the official resettlement policy, migrants are supposed to be exempt for three years from agricultural taxes. In Wangxia, however, the township government forced migrants to pay the tax by deducting the amount from the funds earmarked for building new houses for the migrants. New houses in the resettlement zone built by the county government and resettlement bureau are so plagued by problems that each migrant household has had to spend several thousand yuan on repairs. In addition, the side road leading to the main highway is still a muddy track, and nobody from the county resettlement bureau has done anything about it.

As an old Chinese saying goes, “food is the first necessity of life.” How can we survive on this land without soil and water? How can we rebuild our new lives under these circumstances?

Local officials have tried to fatten themselves on public funds, ignoring migrants’ interests and flouting state resettlement policies. We are writing to ask for your help. We are appealing to the Three Gorges resettlement authority to convey our hardship and suffering to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, so that it can investigate our complaints, which can be heard everywhere around here. If the problems are not resolved, we would rather move far away than await our fate here.

Related Stories:
Three Gorges dam protesters beaten, town held under guard, January 15, 2001
Three Gorges migrants protest detentions, unfair treatment, April 20, 2001
Migrant leaders sentenced for resettlement appeals, November 23, 2001

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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