1.3 – 1.9 million
people were forced to move from their homes along the Yangtze River due
to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. There are inconsistencies
as to how many people were resettled, which means that there was inadequate
information and thus funding for resettlement. Peasants account for 87.3%
of people who live in the reservoir area, and are mostly uneducated. Estimates
state that 140 cities, about 1,000 villages, two cities, and 100,000 acres
of fertile farmland will be inundated by the reservoir. The Chinese government
is using a ‘development type resettlement’ plan, which
includes developing the economy and related infrastructure in the
area around the
reservoir. This process is to guarantee that the employment rates
and living standards are sufficient. Ways to assure this is to open
new land for agriculture,
improve the quality of existing land, and to establish new business
opportunities in the area. A number of concerns are raised when looking
at the issue
in Guizhou, located in Hubei Province. Courtesy
of International River Network.
way in which the Chinese government compensates people forced to move
is called the “lump sum” method. This method
grants people the total net worth of their home and land, according to
criteria put in place by the government. This method does not always
mean equal and effective resettlement. For example, the people may be
forced to buy homes at a higher price than the amount of money they were
given for compensation. In this relocation project, there was only enough
land to give 125,000 farmers or farming families, much of the land less
fertile than the land to be inundated. This means a shift in the commodity
being grown. Many farmers switched to planting citrus fruits, or other
value added products. The 100,000 acres of fertile farmland to be flooded
yields 10% of China’s annual grain, 50% of which is rice. The thousands
of others who were not able to receive new land as part of their compensation
were trained for jobs in cities. Since the number of people being relocated
is so high, the odds that the peoples’ livelihoods can be reestablished
There have been some issues of corruption in the procedures
for relocation. Since the Three Gorges Dam and related infrastructure
projects are such a large scale venture, it is easier for funds allocated
for resettlement to be embezzled and spent elsewhere. Many Chinese were
not given adequate compensation for their land. Also, since the number
of Chinese to be relocated might have been underestimated, equal funds
may not exist.
sitting on building ruins. Courtesy of International River Network.
A number of cultural and archeological sites will be
lost when the reservoir reaches its full depth. These sites are valuable
because they are a way to document the nations past. Some sites also
hold religious significance. The Chinese government did set aside funds
to protect the sites and artifacts that could be saved. However, due
to the time constraints and shortage of capable personnel, some of these
artifacts may not have been saved or preserved correctly.
The Three Gorges Dam, despite some negative impacts on
nearby affected society, does offer the positive benefit of flood control.
Before construction of the dam began, the river was maintained a ten
year flood interval by modern technology. With the construction of the
Three Gorges Dam, that flood interval is increased to one-hundred years.
This means that many more lives will be saved, since in the past, the
frequency of the Yangtze River flooding has claimed thousands of lives.
The presence of the dam indicates less flooding downstream and thus less
negative impacts on society.