Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Massive resettlement planned for Three Gorges region...again

Rural unemployment and environmental problems aggravated by China’s Three Gorges dam have prompted authorities to announce a second massive resettlement scheme affecting millions of people along the dam’s 600-kilometre long reservoir. Already, 1.13 million people have been resettled to make way for the Three Gorges dam, about half of them farmers.

Now the Chongqing government plans to move another 2.3 million rural people living along the Three Gorges reservoir into nearby cities.

(To try and come to grips with this population figure, imagine the entire state of Connecticut (pop. 3,504, 809) needing to be uprooted, rehoused and resettled. )

The plan, approved by Chongqing last August, aims to encourage rural people to move to the cities where they have better chances of finding employment. Officials claim this will relieve environmental pressure in the Three Gorges reservoir region, which is plagued by frequent landslides, severe soil erosion, and water pollution – exactly as critics have warned since the 1980s.

Unlike Three Gorges resettlement, where people were forced to move, the slogan this time is: “guided by government, selected by the market, and decided by the people to move voluntarily.”

“The fundamental objective is to change farmers to urban citizens and get them settled in the cities permanently by encouraging them to give up the farmland in the reservoir areas,” Miao Wei, vice director of the Chongqing Development and Reform Commission, said in a September 11 interview with the Beijing-based news magazine, 21st Century Economic Herald.

Chongqing, a large port city at the western end of the Three Gorges reservoir, had its jurisdiction extended in 1997 to encompass almost the entire Three Gorges reservoir region, an area twice the size of Holland (82,000 square kilometres). Chongqing municipality, as it is now known, has a population of 28 million, roughly half of whom live in rural areas.

Here is the full article.