Dams and Earthquakes

Thousands of Chinese citizens protest forced resettlement by hydro dam, clash with police

(March 31, 2011) Thousands of Chinese residents displaced by the Xiangjiaba hydrodam protest China’s resettlement policies.

Photo by Apple Daily, Hong Kong

Steve Lafleur
Probe International

At least 2,000 migrants displaced by the Xiangjiaba dam on the upper Yangtze River took to the streets last Friday to protest the government’s resettlement policy, resulting in a clash between police and protesters. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, up to 50 people have been injured.

The Chinese government dispatched 1,500 riot police to disperse the protesters, who had been blocking a main road and bridge over the Yangtze River for four days.   The protesters hurled bricks and rocks at the heavily armed police.  The protesters were driven away Tuesday, when police called in armoured personnel carriers to put down the riots.

This is not the first time that migrants have protested the dam, located in the south-west Chinese province of Yunnan. Last June, prior to the relocation, a demonstration was held at the head office of the project, where dozens of protesters were injured by riot police.

At issue is the inadequate provisions made by the government for the roughly 100,000 villagers displaced by the dam.  Low compensation and poor housing are among the chief complaints, though villagers are also upset that the government is only paying 1/5th of the cost of relocating a local graveyard, which will be flooded by the dam.

The catalyst for this most recent protest appears to have been the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in nearby Myanmar (Burma), and another recent earthquake in Yunnan which was felt by the migrants. They fear that their new homes, built in a seismic zone, may fare as poorly as the shoddily built “tofu” schools that collapsed in the deadly 2008 earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province, killing an estimated 7,000 school children.

The $11.5 billion Xiangjiaba dam is one of a dozen hydropower projects being built by the Three Gorges Corporation on the Jinsha River. The Xiangjiaba dam will be the fourth largest in China when it is completed next year.

Steve Lafleur is a Research Associate with Probe International.

To see the location of the Xiangjiaba Dam, click here

Further Reading

Chinese police quash protest over land rights

Police, protesters clash over China dam

New migrants, same story

River blocked for China’s new gigantic hydropower project

1 reply »

  1. Excellent article,

    The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.
    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.
    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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