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Millions bewildered and scared as world’s largest dam takes shape in China

Posted by Author on November 20, 2007

The Sydney Morning Herald, November 18, 2007-

China stands almost alone in wielding the wealth and will to conjure vast engineering efforts to alter the flow of rivers and the lives of millions. But many of its people are bewildered and frightened as the world’s largest dam takes shape, writes Chris Buckley

In a precarious apartment overlooking the Yangtze River, Xu Faxiu and her sick husband are holding out as the Government wrenches more than 1.4million people from their homes to make way for the vast Three Gorges Dam.

Whole towns and villages have been resettled to higher slopes or distant provinces as the water rises – an exodus that has brought protests of official corruption and inadequate compensation from displaced people, many of them poor farmers.

Before the waters peak at 175metres next year, Xu, 51, and her husband, Chen Kaishen, must abandon “old Badong”, a steep maze of rotting concrete blocks and half-demolished residences.

They are not ready to go. To stay, however, could mean death.

“This place could collapse, I know, but where do we go?” Xu says from her temporary home on the fifth floor of a largely abandoned apartment building.

She and her husband – rendered mute by two strokes – moved in when their old house, further down the slopes, was threatened as authorities began to lift the dam level.

“Everyone here will have to move out soon. I don’t know where we’ll go,” she says. “Complaining is useless. When you’re poor nobody listens.”

Xu and Chen’s story is a small drama illuminating the hardships and tensions the Three Gorges Dam has brought central China’s Hubei province – where Badong lies – and neighbouring Chongqing municipality.

The dam is an engineering feat of staggering proportions which seeks to tame the world’s third-longest river.

The 6300-kilometre Yangtze, which rises on the Tibetan plateau, flows through the towering Three Gorges to irrigate, and often flood, much of the country’s central and eastern plains……. ( more details from the The Sydney Morning Herald)

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