New York Times
April 23, 2002
‘The Nu River proposal, already delayed for more than a year, is now unexpectedly presenting the Chinese government with a quandary of its own making: will it abide by its own laws?’
Xiaoshaba, China: Far from the pulsing cities that symbolize modern China, this tiny hillside village of crude peasant houses seems disconnected from this century and the last. But follow a dirt path past a snarling watchdog, sidestep the chickens and ducks, and a small clearing on the banks of the Nu River reveals a dusty slab of concrete lying in a rotting pumpkin patch. The innocuous concrete block is also a symbol, of a struggle over law that touches every corner of the country. The block marks the spot on the Nu River where officials here in Yunnan Province want to begin building one of the biggest dam projects in the world. The project would produce more electricity than even the mighty Three Gorges Dam but would also threaten a region considered an ecological treasure. This village would be the first place to disappear. For decades, the ruling Communist Party has rammed through such projects by fiat. But the Nu River proposal, already delayed for more than a year, is now unexpectedly presenting the Chinese government with a quandary of its own making: will it abide by its own laws? A coalition led by Chinese environmental groups is urging the central government to hold open hearings and make public a secret report on the Nu dams before making a final decision. In a country where people cannot challenge decisions by their leaders, such public participation is a fairly radical idea. But the groups argue that new environmental laws grant exactly that right.
Categories: Three Gorges Probe