Three Gorges Probe

Exodus forced by dam under way

(December 13, 2005) Construction of the Pubugou dam on the Dadu River resumed recently after being halted over deadly clashes last year. Up to 100,000 people will be displaced for the project by August, villagers say.

Beijing: Construction of the 186-metre-high Pubugou dam on the Dadu River in Hanyuan county recently resumed after it had been halted over deadly clashes last year. It will be the country’s fifth-largest hydropower plant, with a capacity of 3.3 million kilowatts.

But the 20 billion yuan China Guodian project will see up to 100,000 people displaced from seven townships in Hanyuan and a neighbouring county by August, according to villagers.

“My family is almost ready to go, as many of the county residents have already left,” said Ji Changhua, 39, from Dashu township in Hanyuan, Yaan city , more than 300km from Chengdu.

Of the villagers who signed relocation agreements with the county government in September, more than 30,000 had yet to be moved to their new homes in four counties in Chengdu and Leshan, Mr Ji said.

“The authorities told me that my new house in Pujiang county, about 200km from Hanyuan, will not be ready until next March, although according to the agreement, I should move out by the end of January,” he said.

The agreements were signed after representatives of the villagers were said to be content after a field trip to their new homes.

While the residents have failed in their bid for increased compensation, they face fines of up to 20,000 yuan if they do not vacate their homes on time.

“My new house will be 50 square metres smaller than the one I am living in. The farmland there will also be smaller, and what’s more, our land here is so fertile,” Mr Ji said. “But we have no other choice but to accept the deal as the authorities are so determined to build the dam. We don’t petition the government any more.”

Mr Ji was among up to 100,000 farmers who staged sit-ins and protests to stop the damming of the river in October last year.

The demonstration erupted into violent clashes the next month when up to 10,000 People’s Armed Police were sent to the dam site to quell days of protests. One policeman was killed and a number of villagers and police injured.

More than a year after the massive demonstration, which earned the mountain-valley county international attention, it remains a taboo topic in the mainland media and among Sichuan academics.

Local authorities, embarrassed by the open opposition by the usually obedient locals, have questioned as many as 400 villagers and arrested at least a dozen protesters.

One Dashu villager, Gao Qiansong , was jailed for three years for his alleged role in leading the protests. The massive protests also led to a purge of local city and county officials who had been accused of corruption and involvement in the clashes.

Former Yaan vice-mayor Tang Fujin, who was promoted to the city post after having served as Hanyuan’s party secretary for six years from 1998, was put on trial in June for accepting nearly 2.5 million yuan in bribes, Xinhua reported.

Local rumours say Tang has been jailed for life, while his confidant, former deputy county party secretary Bai Rangao, is also said to have been sentenced to a lengthy spell behind bars.

The construction of the dam, designed to help ease the country’s chronic power shortage, resumed in September and the damming of the Dadu was completed late last month. The dam project is scheduled for completion in 2010.

South China Morning Post, December 13, 2005

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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