China’s Second Largest Hydropower Project Brings Poverty to Thousands – Yulun Jiandu

 383983 2003年10月1日,永善县政府派出的数百人警力到移民驻地

Xiluodu (Ê∫™Ê¥õÊ∏°) hydropower station, a 5-billion-yuan mega project on the Jinsha River (ÈáëÊ≤ôʱü), has been hailed as the world’s third largest hydro development, second only to the Three Gorges Dam in China. Despite all the fanfare, thousands of the dislocated haven’t seen government promises delivered, but instead have seen poverty and in some cases fleeing and deaths. Translated from Yulun Jiandu:

In March 2007, deputy director Wang Jinxiang (ÁéãÈáëÁ••) of the State Council West Development Office singled out hydro-project relocation as a key concern. If the work of relocation cannot be handled well, we shouldn’t build new power stations, and we shouldn’t approve them, Wang said: “In the past, we have paid more attention to damming and building the power stations in the Western Development program, but we haven’t cared much about the difficulties of the dislocated.” According to regulations issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, compensation for the people dislocated from large- and medium-sized hydro projects should be 600 yuan per head every year, for 20 years.

But to Jinsha River residents like Wan Xianhong (‰∏áÂÖàÈ∏ø), “we are getting poorer and poorer while the government is getting richer and richer from the damming and power station.” The plan to dam the river at Xiluodu, in Yunnan’s Yongshan County (Ê∞∏ÂñÑÂéø), was once briefly shelved for failing to clear an environmental assessment in early 2005, one of 30 large projects blacklisted by China’s environmental agency. By that year’s end, the project got its green light from SEPA. The Three Gorges Corporation, which took over the job of construction from state government, erected blue poster boards along the riversides that read “build a power station, pull along the local economy, improve the environment and benefit the relocated residents.”

But the reality feels a lot different. A clash broke out in September 2003, when Yongshan County government sent in riot police and other government officers to measure the land from where farmers would be dislocated. Some pleaded, “wait for a few days at least, let’s harvest the ripe crops first.” A 79-year-old lady tried to stop officials from working on her land, but she was soon pushed to the ground and fainted. A fight started right there, and the measurement was aborted. But the government took away seven villagers, jailing them for as long as a few dozen days.

In late 2003, the county issued an ultimatum ordering all 4,786 farmers in the construction area to move out by April 30, 2004. Panicked, some dug up the ashes of their parents or grandparents out of the ground and moved into the makeshift shacks built by the government. Some joined relatives elsewhere. The compensation for the transition period: 200 yuan a month for six months.

When the dislocated asked about compensation policy for their seized land, they were told, “there’s no policy yet.” For the past three years when their land was already taken, only a tiny amount of compensation money was handed down.

With resistance from the farmers, the government in early 2006 again called on the police and other officers to tear down the temporary shelters for the dislocated and forcibly loaded hundreds in buses and drove them to Menglian County (孟连县), where the government planned to drop them.

Many didn’t like their new home and made their way back to their hometown. But the government kept up their work, bulldozing any shelters the dislocated tried to live in and freezing people’s bank accounts. Many tried to hide out in the hills, playing a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. Some fell into the river while fleeing and died in the rapid current. Kids were sometimes taken away by the local police while their parents were living with relatives.

Some made their way to Beijing to petition the central government. Their complaints have yet to be heard. [Full Text in Chinese]

[Image: Yongshan county government sending in riot police to a relocation site on Oct. 1, 2003]