Three Gorges Probe

Families made homeless as reservoir rises higher than planned

Kelly Haggart

June 16, 2003

Two houses collapsed and dozens of others were flooded in the village of Wuxiangmiao, about 25 kilometres upstream of the Three Gorges dam, when the reservoir water level rose higher than planned, China News Service (Zhongguo xinwen she) reported.

No one was hurt in the incidents, the agency said in its June 13 story.

The two houses, owned by Wang Kaiqun, 70, and his brother, Wang Kaiyu, 53 , stood at 135.8 metres above sea level, and above the planned water line of 135 metres.

Because they lived above the expected submersion level, the occupants of the houses were not scheduled to be relocated until the third phase of the dam project, which begins next year (2004-09).

Mr. Wang Kaiqun recounted that on June 9 the rising water was just a foot [one-third of a metre] away from his threshing floor, but that it flooded the threshing floor and entered his house the following afternoon.

Then, early in the morning on June 11, the foundation of his house suddenly began to sink, and soon the brothers’ houses had both collapsed.

Everything happened so quickly that they had no chance to rescue their domestic animals and fowl, or to gather up their rice supply and personal possessions, now buried under the debris of the houses.

Wang Kaiqun said that after their homes had collapsed and the families had lost everything to the reservoir, his dog kept barking angrily at the river, refusing to leave with his owner.

The two homeless families are now living on a landing stage by the river. They hope to go back to the site of their former houses if the reservoir wanes a little, in the hope of retrieving some of their belongings.

Yi Wanghua, head of Taipingxi town, which encompasses Wuxiangmiao village, said that dozens of homes had been flooded unexpectedly by the rising reservoir.

"We’re trying to launch an emergency program to resettle the affected families a little earlier than planned by using some of the funds earmarked for the third phase of the resettlement plan," Mr. Yi said.

Xiao Ke, deputy director of the Three Gorges Project Regulation Centre, was quoted as saying that a variation in the water level — from 134.9 to 135.4 metres above sea level — was allowed during the filling of the reservoir.

But when a correspondent from the Chongqing Morning Post (Chongqing chen bao) visited the centre on the afternoon of June 11, he was surprised to see the big red figure of 135.9 displayed on a screen — higher than the so-called normal variation range.

An engineer explained that after the reservoir was filled to the target level of 135 metres at around 10 p.m. on June 10, a run-off of 19,000 cubic metres per second arrived from upstream, which led to an unexpectedly higher water level at the dam. More sluice gates had to be opened to let the excess water go, the Chongqing Morning Post said in its June 12 report.


Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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