The Chinese website for the Yangtze Three Gorges Dam project is here. The BBC’s Peter Day visited China for its In Business programme to see how the peasants of China, left behind by the country’s economic boom, are fairing. One place he visited was the Three Gorges Dam.
Here it took him over 5 hours by highspeed hydrofoil to travel the length of the new dam lake. He also travelled some of the river below the dam where new towns and cities are being constructed around the clock to house the 1.3 million people displaced by the building of the dam and the subsequent flooding of the gorge.
Where there is a new town there is a new bridge and new roads are being cut into the hillsides. This frenetic activity surrounding the dam project has probably in itself been responsible for soaring prices worldwide for concrete and steel.
The power station, with its 26 turbines is able to provide up to 10% of the country’s current energy needs, we are told by Huang Lige, Deputy Director, of 3 Gorges Corporation. Hydro is classed as a ‘green’ low carbon energy source. The director claims that 15m tonnes of coal are saved from burning per year thanks to the dam project, the largest in the world.
A photographer, Fan Benli had the vision to document the city of Wanzhou before it was flooded. He now has 60,000 photographs. He is popular with locals keen to see what once was their home.
Peter Day met some of the people moved out of what are now flooded towns and cities, including Mi Niyin, to find out how they are coping with losing their homes. What he found was people struggling to cope with being disbanded from close knit communities and moved into dislocated environments.
The government expects them to survive on a 100Rmb hand out per month. With prices for many food stuffs soaring they are finding life hard. Some don’t turn on the TV or use the fridge provided because they cannot afford the electricity. Rather than use the tap water they use a nearby well.
A well known Chinese human rights lawyer has opened an office here with 50 staff to help these ‘immigrants’, as they are now called, to claim more money from the government. The clients, the courts and the lawyer and his staff are constantly harassed by the authorities who do not welcome these developments.
China, with its 1.3 billion people is doing everything on an extraordinary scale. It does this also at extraordinary cost to the environment and its citizens. The dam is however classed as a renewable energy project and its claimed to provide 10% of the country’s energy needs. Is China on a new enlightened path?