Three Gorges Probe

The village that refused to die

The Guardian
July 3, 2006

Mountain community fights plans for a giant dam, in a country that badly needs more clean energy.

When the hydro-engineers made their way up the steep, winding Himalayan road to Chezhou village, they knew that they could not expect a warm welcome from the residents. They were coming unannounced to survey the site for a dam in Tiger Leaping Gorge ‚Äì one of the deepest and most famous ravines in the world ‚Äì that would submerge every house in the community and force locals to leave a mountain idyll that had been home to their families for generations. But they did not anticipate just how determined the villagers were to prevent the dam from being built. All 10 members of the team were abducted and held hostage until government officials came to plead for their release. In a show of solidarity more than 4,000 residents staged a demonstration. The story of the Chezhou protest earlier this year is slowly spreading beyond this remote community and is now being told up and down the reaches of this spectacular gorge, which rises up 3,500m from the Jinsha river to the peak of towering mountains in Yunnan Province. It is a sign of China’s increasingly assertive environmental movement, which is using the law, the media and mass mobilizations to promote grassroots participation in the decision-making process for big infrastructure projects. Northwest Yunnan ‚Äì one of the most ecologically diverse and spectacular regions in the world ‚Äì has become a focus of the green movement. The provincial government recently announced that half a million people would be relocated over the next decade in a push to triple the output of hydropower, which energy-hungry China sees as a cheap and clean alternative to nuclear or coal-fired plants. . . . "We live in such a beautiful place that we don’t want to leave," said Xiao Jialin, a Chezhou villager. "We want the right to participate in the decision-making process." . . . [Efforts to halt the dam appear] to have worked, at least temporarily.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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