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Three Gorges Dam Migrants To Move In New Plan

Reuters in Beijing, SCMP – Updated on Feb 05, 2009

Some of the farmers displaced to make way for the vast Three Gorges Dam will be resettled again under a plan issued on Thursday that vows to cure poverty, unemployment and environmental hazards in the area. The “co-ordinated urban-rural” plan for sprawling Chongqing municipality in country’s southwest also covers the dam area, which has been troubled by social unrest, algae-tainted water and landslides and quakes triggered by the rising reservoir.

The document approved by the State Council, or cabinet, and issued on the central government’s website does not say how many of the some 1.4 million residents moved to make way for the dam will have to move again, or where they will go.

But it acknowledges that previous plans to find homes for many residents on steep slopes near the dam have fallen short of official blueprints and left some residents jobless and exposed to dangerous geological jolts.

“Based on the ecological carrying capacity of the dam area, steadily promote ecological migration and establish an ecological protective screen and protection belt,” states the plan.

It also promises to find a lasting solution to geological hazards around the dam and deal with a backlog of social problems that have stoked protests by locals in past years.

“Problems left over from migration and resettlement must be dealt with in detail, helping migrants to solve the real hardships and problems in their work and lives, building a harmonious and stable dam area.”

The Three Gorges Dam plan was controversial long before construction began in 1994, and domestic critics said it would create more problems than it could ever solve.

Beijing now promote it as a triumph of national ingenuity and resolve. But the new plan for Chongqing, which has over 31 million people, mostly farmers, shows rare candour about the social and environmental burdens.

Last July, officials said they had finished evacuating residents from the last town to be submerged by the 660-kilometre long reservoir on the Yangtze River, ending an exodus begun four years earlier.

The 2,309-metre-long dam, the world’s largest, aims to tame the river and provide cheap, clean energy. Reservoir engineers began withholding outflows in September to push the dam’s water level up to 175 metres above sea level.

But implementing the plan’s calls for both economic development and green protection may be difficult and costly.

The plan promises to cut industrial and agricultural pollution, which has nurtured blooms of algae choking nitrogen-rich water on offshoots of the main reservoir. But it also demands faster development to create jobs for locals.

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