Dams and Landslides

Filmmaker says problems from the Three Gorges dam are here to stay

(December 7, 2009) The social and political environment in the area around the Three Gorges dam remains tense, residents believe that more 50 percent of the resettlement funds were misappropriated by government officials and the problems from the project are not manageable and will plague the area as long as the dam stands, says Shi Ming, producer of the award-winning documentary, “Countdown on the Yangtze”.

Shi remarked that since 1995—when he first visited the areas surrounding the Three Gorges project—there have been major changes in the relationship between the Chinese people and the officials in charge of the project. He said the crew for his film met with “considerable obstacles from officials on the ground, especially when they tried to report on the millions of people displaced from cities and towns in the reservoir area.”

“Things are very tense on the ground at the moment around the issue of resettlement,” Shi said. He says that when a foreign film crew tried to go to the area around Three Gorges, it was routinely “blocked and rounded up at every  turn.”

Shi also said residents in the area claim that the amount of resettlement funds misappropriated was higher than the 50 percent reported in a survey conducted by the Chongqing municipality—and that this theft is enflaming tensions on the ground.

“That is huge,” he said in response to the missing resettlement funds. “On the ground, they are saying much more went missing than 50 percent, so of course there is a lot of anger among the resettled population.”

And in response to the ongoing environmental problems associated with the dam—especially the erosion, fatal landslides and increased seismic activity—Shi says they are here to stay and officials will never be able to fully manage them.

“I believe that I made a mistake in the past,” he said. “I believed that we should develop first and worry about managing it all later.”

“The Three Gorges has taught us that even if you want to manage it later, you can’t.”

“It will be a problem left to future generations—for your children and grandchildren to deal with for many years to come,” he added. “For every day that the Three Gorges dam exists, so will all the problems connected with it.”

His remarks come as environmental, social and economic problems continue to plague the Three Gorges dam. Notable among those problems is the inability of its operators to operate the dam at its full power capacity because of fears that raising the reservoir will provoke deadly landslides and, ironically, because of low water levels in the Yangtze river.

The quotes for this article come from an interview broadcast on Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Brady Yauch, Probe International, December 7, 2009

Further Reading:

A Damned Dam

Three Gorges officials admit they can’t fill reservoir, for now

More landslides likely as Three Gorges reservoir rises

Local residents say Three Gorges dam aggravating drought

Three Gorges Dam is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions

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