China’s Nu River Hangs in the Balance

In a three part series, International Rivers’ Katy Yan describes her journey up the as far as (which, as an American, she was unable to enter), and the effects of dam-building on the communities that live along its course.

On our last day in the Nu valley, we stopped at the controversial resettlement village of New Xiaoshaba near the Liuku Dam site, which had started site work in 2008. We met with Xiong Di and his mother, two of the last holdouts at Old Xiaoshaba village, at their home overlooking the fields and demolished houses of the rest of their village.

Because of Liuku Dam, their entire village (apart from their two small houses) has been involuntarily resettled to New Xiaoshaba. They told us how they’ve spent the last five years struggling to keep their home. The markers for Liuku Dam cut right through one of their houses.

Xiong took us to New Xiaoshaba, where housing clean on the outside but poorly constructed on the inside (cracks, leaks, and mold dominate the interior decorating), and where people are now forced to open up stores and abandon their farming lifestyle. According to Xiong, few have a sustainable source of income and many spend their days playing cards and idling away resettlement money. According to China’s 2006 resettlement and compensation law (see Brown and Xu, 2010), all farmers must receive farmland after being displaced. This did not materialize at New Xiaoshaba, and many villagers continue to return to work the land at Old Xiaoshaba.

For another, older example of dam resettlement, and the authorities’ failure to appropriately compensate displaced communities, see the tale of the Sanmen Xia reservoir. Author Xie Chaoping was detained late last year in response to his book on the subject, ‘The Great Relocation’.