China Water Resettlement: 'Honest Folk Have Lost Out'

At the Guardian, Jonathan Watts visits families in Henan who have been forced from their homes by the South-North Water Diversion Project, whose stories undermines claims that lessons have been learned from past mistakes.

Visitors to Wang Baoying’s new house must tread softly or they will frighten her son. The four-year-old boy is not afraid of strangers. He is terrified his home will fall down.

This is not just the fear of a childish imagination. Wang’s concrete home – built this year to resettle migrants from China’s latest and greatest hydro-engineering project – wobbles when she walks. Her neighbour’s floor has completely collapsed. Another’s bedroom is tilting. There are cracks on many of the walls ….

The former farmer is one of 345,000 people who are being relocated in a desperate bid to ease Beijing’s drought crisis with a transfusion of water from the Yangtze basin, 1,277km to the south. Her old home and farmland will soon be flooded by the central leg of three vast channels that make up the £40bn South-North water diversion, a 50-year project to replenish the arid north of China. According to US diplomatic cables released via WikiLeaks last week, the project is plagued by pollution and misconceived.

Though Wang cried when she left her home in Xichuan, village leaders and propaganda slogans assured her the sacrifice was necessary for the nation. Migrants have also been promised new homes, compensation and farmland. But the reality, as many are discovering, is shoddily constructed housing, money that has been skimmed by officials, no jobs and a cold welcome from existing locals who are reluctant to share their property.

The article is accompanied by a set of photos showing the affected area. Previously via CDT, ‘China’s Biggest Relocation Project Yet‘ examined similar relocations in Shaanxi, while ‘China’s Coal Rush Leaves Three Million Living on the Edge focused on those displaced by mining in Shanxi.

Sources:

China water resettlement: ‘Honest folk have lost out’ – guardian.co.uk
China’s South-North water diversion resettlement – in pictures – guardian.co.uk