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Archive for the ‘Three Gorges’ Category

China’s Three Gorges Dam Causes Quakes, Landslides and Cracks

Posted by Author on May 31, 2010

Michael Sheridan and Richard Jones, The Times, May 30, 2010 –

The Three Gorges dam
was so vast and sweeping a vision that nothing could stand in its way. Not the old cities of the Yangtze valley, storehouses of human toil and treasure for more than a thousand years. Not the lush, low-lying farmlands, nor the villages, nor even the pagodas and temples that graced the riverbanks.

The cries of dissenting scientists and the lamentations of more than a million Chinese people forced to leave their ancestral lands counted for nothing.

When the waters rose to 570ft last year, drowning all these things, it marked a triumph for the engineers at the top of the Chinese Communist party.

But in the past six months a sinister trail of events has unfolded from the dam all the way up the 410-mile reservoir to the metropolis of Chongqing.

It began with strange, small-scale earthquakes recorded by official monitoring stations and reported by the Chinese media.

Mysterious cracks split roads and sundered schoolhouses and apartments in newly built towns and villages on the bluffs looking down on the river.

The local government now says that 300,000 people will have to move out in addition to the 1.4m evicted to make way for the dam.

More than 50,000 residents have already been relocated owing to seismic problems that were not foreseen when the dam was built, according to the state news agency, Xinhua.

As the boats sail by, landslides can be seen from the river — some small, some big — staining the waters of the Yangtze with minerals and sediment.

Big pleasure cruisers, tramp steamers and shoals of sampans plough through waters that switch from hue to hue as their chemical composition changes.

In Badong county, midway through the Three Gorges, celebrated in Chinese painting and poetry, the citizens are troubled by a sense of foreboding.

The local government hastily moved out of a prestigious new block after experts warned that it was unsafe.

But ordinary folk and even schoolchildren have been left to fend for themselves. More than 3,000 children attend school every day in a building dating back to 1943 that officials know to be at risk of collapse. Nothing has been done to move them, supposedly because of a lack of funds.

The playground is riddled with cracks. One ominous jagged line runs down the side of the classrooms.

“The government agrees that our whole school must move,” said a worried teacher, who asked not to be named, “but so far it’s just talk.”

In a telling example of China’s glaring class differences, a group of unemployed workers live in housing provided by the state that is visibly cracking at the seams.

“What kind of dogshit government moves itself out and moves us into somewhere like this?” one of them complained.

“My house is like a fishing pond whenever it rains,” said Grandma Wang, 72. “I don’t mind for myself because I am old, but I care for my granddaughter, who is 10 and has to live in here.”

Badong is one of many places where the land and the water have interacted in ways that only a few scientists predicted before the dam was built. Their objections were overruled by the party.

But last week even the state media acknowledged that the Three Gorges area faced a “grim” situation. Officials have counted 97 significant landslides this year alone. These are linked to the worrying increase in seismic activity. ….. (more details from The Times)

Posted in China, Chongqing, dam, disaster, Environment, Life, News, People, Politics, Sichuan, Social, SW China, Three Gorges, World | 1 Comment »

China’s Three Gorges Dam ‘a model for disaster’

Posted by Author on October 31, 2009

The Ecologist, 30th October, 2009 –

International Rivers has highlighted the environmental damage caused by the world’s biggest hydropower project amid concern about plans for two new dams in China

China’s Yangtze River hydropower project has been a ‘model for disaster’, according to a river protection charity, which is concerned about new proposals for similar projects.

The Three Gorges Dam, whose reservoir is due to reach its final height of 175 metres over the next few weeks, will be able to produce enough electricity to meet close to one tenth of China’s current electricity demands.

However, Rivers International say the Dam has driven fish species to extinction, caused frequent toxic algae blooms and is subjecting the area to erosion and frequent landslides.

Future warnings

The group says that the environment impacts of the dam are likely to worsen with time.

‘The submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and waste dumps and the presence of massive industrial centers upstream are creating a festering bog of effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish in the reservoir,’ the report’s authors write.

Policy director Peter Bosshard said the Chinese government was attempting to replicate the model of the dam. More hydropower proposals have been put forward for the Lancang (Upper Mekong) and Nu (Salween) Rivers.

‘The Three Gorges Dam is a model of the past,’ he said. ‘Its impacts need to be independently evaluated before more dams are being built on the Yangtze River. There are smarter ways of generating energy and managing floods than by building outdated mega-projects.’

The Ecologist

Posted in China, dam, disaster, Environment, News, Three Gorges, World | Comments Off on China’s Three Gorges Dam ‘a model for disaster’

China’s Longest River at Lowest in 142 Years

Posted by Author on January 19, 2008

Reuters, Jan 17, 2008-

BEIJING, Jan 17 (Reuters) – China’s longest river, the Yangtze, is suffering from a severe drought this year with water levels in some areas falling to the lowest in 142 years, state media said on Thursday.

China is suffering its worst drought in a decade, which has left millions of people short of drinking water and has shrunk reservoirs and rivers.

Hardest hit are large swathes of the usually humid south, where water levels on several major rivers have plunged to historic lows in recent months.

On Jan. 8, the Yangtze water level at Hankou plunged to 13.98 metres (46 ft), the lowest since records began in 1866, the China Daily said on Thursday, quoting the Wuhan-based Changjiang Times.

“This year’s drought is rare,” Li Changmin, a farmer from central Hubei province, was quoted as saying. “Just days ago, I saw ship after ship running aground. I have never seen that before.”

Since October, more than 40 ships have run aground in the main course of the Yangtze, the world’s third longest river which stretches 6,300 km (3,900 miles) from west to east, the traditional dividing line between north and south China.

This year’s dry season came a month earlier than usual and water levels fell sooner than expected, an official was quoted as saying.

“Also, large amounts of water were stored at the Three Gorges Dam last month, which caused the flow volume in the river to fall 50 percent. But the Yangtze River Water Resource Commission said the drought has nothing to do with the dam,” the China Daily said.

The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, is an engineering feat that seeks to tame the Yangtze.

Backers say the dam will end devastating floods downstream and generate clean electricity. Critics call it a reckless folly that has brought wrenching dislocation for many people.

Drought and floods are perennial problems in China but meteorologists have complained about the increased extreme weather, pointing to global climate change as a culprit.

Original report from Reuters

Posted in Central China, China, dam, disaster, Drought, Environment, Hubei, Life, News, River, Three Gorges, transport, water, World, Wuhan, Yangtze river | Comments Off on China’s Longest River at Lowest in 142 Years

Residents fear China’s Three Gorges Dam

Posted by Author on November 28, 2007

MAOPING, China (AFP) — Several times this year, Tan Mingzhu had the terrible feeling her home in central China was about to collapse in on her family.

Frightening tremors rocked their simple concrete dwelling four kilometres (2.5 miles) from China’s mammoth Three Gorges Dam, ripping floor-to-ceiling cracks in the walls, and she doesn’t hesitate in assigning blame.

“It’s because of the dam. This started when the dam went into operation (last year),” said Tan, 36, a mother of one.

The fissures in Tan’s home are among mounting examples of the potentially disastrous impacts of the Yangtze river project, China’s biggest public works undertaking since the Great Wall and the world’s biggest hydropower project.

Built mainly for flood control and hydropower, the giant concrete wall built across China’s longest river has been blamed for a host of worsening environmental ills to go with longstanding concerns about the 1.4 million people uprooted so far to make way for the reservoir’s rising waters.

“An extraordinary amount of damage has been done, not only to property but to the irreplaceable network of human and economic relations that made up the region,” said Patricia Adams, executive director of Toronto-based Probe International, which chronicles the dam’s problems.

Government officials and scientists caused a stir in September when they told a conference that the project could lead to an “environmental catastrophe,” with the comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

The conference was told that the huge weight of the water behind the dam had started to erode the Yangtze river’s banks in many places, which, together with frequent fluctuations in water levels, had triggered a series of landslides.

Officials said shortly afterwards another four million people in the area would have to be relocated from around the dam.

After those revelations caused global headlines, the government has run a strong media campaign to say there are no major problems and the extra relocations are not related to the dam.

The head of the office in charge of constructing the dam, Wang Xiaofeng, was among the officials to warn of the dangers in September, but he was brought to Beijing to brief reporters on Tuesday and downplay the concerns.

“Regarding the Three Gorges project’s impact on the ecological environment, the benefits outweigh the negative consequences,” Wang said at the press conference, organised by the central government.

But critics and people living in the region remain fearful.

One of the biggest emerging concerns is that the reservoir’s seasonal water fluctuations have unsettled the delicate geology of the area, raising landslide and other seismic dangers.

“This is a geologically risky area and the dam definitely increases those risks,” Chen Guojie, a geologist at the Institute of Mountain Hazards in Chengdu, told AFP.

Residents of Maoping, in Hubei province, such as Zhou Gonghui, whose concrete house on a steep slope regularly groans and cracks, live in daily fear of those dangers.

Many like him were resettled here by the government in the 1990s from now-submerged zones. He wants to leave out of safety but lacks the money and says the government has been unresponsive.

“Of course, we are scared. but we’re just commoners. What can we do?” asked Zhou, 48.

Another longstanding concern frequently raised is that the dam will prevent the river from flushing the billions of tonnes of pollution dumped into it each year.

Despite the problems, and driven by a desire to lessen the country’s heavy reliance on highly polluting coal, new hydroelectric dams are being built at a furious pace.

Nearly three dozen are being built or planned for the upper reaches of the Yantze alone.

Just this week, construction began on the Xiangjiaba project in southwestern Sichuan province, which will have a third of the energy generating capacity of the Three Gorges Dam.

Original report from AFP

Posted in China, dam, Environment, housing, Life, News, People, River, Rural, Social, Three Gorges, World, Yangtze river | 1 Comment »

Crushed Bus Lifts China Three Gorges Dam Area Landslide Deaths to More Than 30

Posted by Author on November 23, 2007

By Chris Buckley, Reuters, Nov 23, 2007-

BEIJING, Nov 23 (Reuters) – The death toll from a landslide near China’s massive Three Gorges Dam soared on Friday when state media revealed the collapse had crushed a bus, killing about 30 people.

The bus was found three days after Tuesday’s landslide. Early reports from the Xinhua news agency had put casualties at the railway tunnel construction site at one worker killed, one injured and two missing.

The latest report from the scene in Badong county, Hubei province, said a road near the rail site had also been buried under rocks and earth.

Rescuers said there were no signs of life on the bus, a long-distance coach from Shanghai crowded with returning migrant workers. Just how many died remains unclear.

Records taken at a checkpoint close to the accident showed it had been carrying 27 people, but did not make clear whether that included or excluded three staff recorded when the bus left Shanghai, said Zeng Bing, a Badong government official.

The victims included a four-month-old boy and his 20-year-old mother, according to a local government Web site.

“We’ve starting digging out the bus, but the chances of survivors are really, really dim,” said Zeng. “It’s been too long, and the bus was totally crushed.”

A manager from the Lichuan Lida Bus Company told Reuters that officials had been alerted to the missing bus only after relatives and the company contacted them with their worries.

The landslide struck near a tributary of the 660-km (410-mile) Three Gorges Dam reservoir, sending down 1,000 cubic metres of rocks and mud and scaffolding, according to a report on the Badong official Web site (

The disaster appeared to be the latest warning of geological threats around the dam. Reports have not speculated on whether the slide could be linked to the dam’s rising waters, which are due to peak at 175 metres (574 feet) above sea level next year.

Badong is one of the steep areas along the reservoir that locals recently told Reuters have seen more landslides and tremors since the water level rose last year, increasing pressure on brittle slopes.

In September, dam officials warned of potential “environmental catastrophe” unless erosion and geological instability around the reservoir were controlled — an abrupt departure from bright propaganda about the world’s biggest dam.

Since then they have repeatedly said those threats are being dealt with and the dam’s environment is better than expected.

“There have been no injuries or deaths” due to dam-related landslides, Tong Chongde, a spokesman for the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, told a small news briefing on Thursday. Phone calls to Tong on Friday went unanswered.

In the rainy summer of 2007, landslides across the dam area killed at least 13, according to local news reports and the dam’s own environmental agency.

Rescuers used explosives to shatter boulders blocking access to the crushed bus, the Badong government said.

The provincial government said grieving families would be cared for and it ordered officials to “protect social stability”, the Badong government report said. (Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng, editing by Nick Macfie and Roger Crabb)

– Original report from Reuters : Crushed bus lifts China dam area landslide deaths

Posted in Central China, China, dam, Environment, Hubei, Incident, Life, News, Three Gorges, transport, World | Comments Off on Crushed Bus Lifts China Three Gorges Dam Area Landslide Deaths to More Than 30

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)

Posted in China, Chongqing, dam, Environment, housing, Life, News, People, River, Rural, Social, SW China, Three Gorges, World, Yangtze river | Comments Off on Millions bewildered and scared as world’s largest dam takes shape in China

The Dam Breaks– China can no longer deny the environmental disaster at Three Gorges

Posted by Author on October 29, 2007

Editorials, Washington Post, October 15, 2007-

FOR CHINA’S communist leadership, which gathers today for a major party congress, the gigantic Three Gorges Dam holds out the promise of abundant hydroelectric power and an end to devastating periodic floods along the Yangtze River. Yet from the moment they hatched a plan to build the colossal project, China’s leaders have known that its benefits would come at a high environmental cost. Undeterred, they ignored or repressed dissent about it. One prominent early critic, journalist Dai Qing, was jailed for 10 months after the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989; her book “Yangtze! Yangtze!” was suppressed. Even then, the threats posed by the $22 billion project in Hubei province were so evident that one-third of the delegates to China’s rubber-stamp national legislature either abstained or voted against it in 1993. Undaunted, the government began construction in 1994 and has relocated 1.4 million mostly poor rural villagers to make way for a 370-mile-long, 525-foot-deep reservoir. The dam’s first stage opened in 2003, permitting cargo vessels to travel from Shanghai to Chongqing; eventually, its turbines are supposed to generate 84 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

As recently as 2004, the official China Daily was still emitting happy talk about “achievements in environmental protection of the area.” But now comes word that the warnings of Dai Qing and others were true. And the source of the news is none other than the Chinese government. In fact, a “catastrophe” is possible if preventive steps are not taken promptly, the official Xinhua news agency said last week. Apparently, thickly populated river banks near Chongqing have been weakened by the project, and landslides — including one June 28 that killed four people — are a frequent occurrence. The new reservoir’s shoreline is collapsing in 91 places. In addition, the Yangtze is silting up because of the reduced flow of water, and pollutants are accumulating behind the dam — exactly as critics had predicted.

The authorities in China have a plan, of course: They will relocate 4 million more people over the next 10 to 15 years. This additional movement of people will have immense direct costs — financial and human — and will exacerbate serious land shortages and urban crowding in Chongqing and its surroundings. Chongqing is already one of the most congested and polluted cities in China. We suppose it’s good news that China’s leaders, consistent with a recent increase in official candor about the country’s environmental woes, are finally facing the facts about Three Gorges. But for many years to come, the dam will stand as a monument to their folly and their arrogance.

Original report from Washington Post

Posted in China, dam, Environment, Life, News, Politics, Three Gorges, World | Comments Off on The Dam Breaks– China can no longer deny the environmental disaster at Three Gorges

China’s Three Gorges Dam Under Fire

Posted by Author on October 14, 2007

By LIN YANG, the Times, UK, Friday, Oct. 12, 2007-

The giant Three Gorges Dam across China’s Yangtze river has been mired in controversy ever since it was first proposed 88 years ago by Sun Yat Sen, the founding father of Modern China. In 1992, when Chinese Premier Li Peng submitted a proposal for the dam to China’s normally pliant parliament, the National People’s Congress, it ran into serious opposition and ultimately passed with the smallest margin in the legislature’s history.

Still, it is a sign of just how grave the problems are facing the world’s largest dam that criticism is now coming from top government officials in Beijing, who previously had studiously avoided saying anything derogatory about the $180 billion project. In June, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a meeting of the State Council, convened to discuss the Three Gorges project, that solving environmental problems surrounding the controversial dam project should be a priority for the country. On Sept. 25, a group of senior government officials and scholars announced at a work meeting in Wuhan that the project had the potential to cause a “huge disaster … if steps are not taken promptly.” And on Oct. 9, the Chongqing municipal government announced it would have to relocate an additional four million people in at-risk areas due to environmental damange caused by the dam.

Originally built to control the Yangtze’s regular flooding, produce electricity to fuel China’s booming economy and (not incidentally) serve as a symbol of the nation’s emerging engineering prowess, the Three Gorges Dam has already faced a host of problems. An estimated 1.4 million residents have been displaced by the 640-km-long reservoir forming behind it, which also flooded several important archaeological sites. And some hydrologists say that by trapping silt the dam could actually make downstream riverbanks more vulnerable to flooding.

Now, however, scientists say things are getting worse. The water quality of the Yangtze’s tributaries is deteriorating rapidly, as the dammed river is less able to disperse pollutants effectively. The incidence of algae blooms have risen steadily since the reservoir was completed in 2006. The rising water is also causing rampant soil erosion, resulting in riverbank collapses and landslides along the shores of the Yangtze’s tributaries. Professor Lei Henshun, an environmentalist at Chongqing University who has devoted years to studying and preserving the Three Gorges ecosystem, says that if the water level of the reservoir reaches its planned height of 165 meters next year, it will bring tributaries of the Yangtze River under even greater environmental threat. “Now it’s a good time to review the problems that have arisen,” he says, “before a larger flooded area brings an even bigger impact on the tributaries.”…… (more details from the Time)

Posted in China, Economy, Environment, Life, News, Politics, River, Three Gorges, water, World, Yangtze river | 1 Comment »

China Admits Three Gorges Dam Could Cause Environmental Disasters

Posted by Author on September 27, 2007

By VOA News, U.S, 26 September 2007-

Chinese state media report that experts say the country could face a catastrophe if it fails to quickly resolve environmental problems caused by the massive Three Gorges Dam.

Government-run news outlets Wednesday said experts are concerned by flooding and erosion on hillsides along the Yangtze River around the dam.

The reports note the concerns of Wang Xiaofeng, the head of the office in charge of constructing the dam. He is quoted as saying China can not win by achieving economic prosperity at the cost of the environment.

He said the hydro-electric project has caused conflicts over land shortages and environmental degradation caused by irrational development.

The Chinese government has hailed the Three Gorges Dam as its greatest engineering project since the Great Wall.

It has said the project is a source of clean power and a solution to devastating flooding on the Yangtze River.

Human rights and environmental activists have long condemned the $22 billion dam, because of its negative effects on people and the environment.

The construction and flooding behind the dam has forced nearly one-and-a-half million people to leave their homes.

Original report from VOA News

Posted in China, disaster, Environment, Life, News, Politics, River, Social, Three Gorges, World, Yangtze river | 3 Comments »

China Three Gorges Landslide Threat Forces Villagers to Flee

Posted by Author on May 20, 2007

Three Gorges Probe, May 9/2007-

Nearly 100 villagers living upstream from the Three Gorges dam have been forced to leave their homes under threat of a landslide, which officials fear was disturbed during the filling of the dam’s reservoir last year, Xinhua News Agency reported this week.

The Yemaomian (wild cat face) landslide is 17 kilometres upstream of the Three Gorges dam in Hubei province’s Zigui county. Chinese experts identified the old landslide as unstable and prone to collapse in 2003, when the filling of the Three Gorges reservoir began. As predicted, several slides have forced residents to flee their homes since then.

Fears were raised again last month when residents of Miaohe village discovered a 200-metre fissure in the Yemaomian landslide. This week, 99 villagers from 22 households were evacuated as a precautionary measure in case the landslide, which carries an estimated 12 million cubic metres of rock and earth, drops into the Yangtze river.

Although the cause of the crack is still unclear, no major rainstorms or any significant changes in the GPS monitoring network have been recorded in the reservoir area. But a preliminary investigation cited by one local official suggests the crack was prompted by water level fluctuations in the reservoir.

“According to local people, the crack on the Yemaomian slide was caused by the fluctuation of water levels after the reservoir was filled to 156 metres last October,” Cheng Chongjun, director of the Three Gorges area administration of the Yangtze and Three Gorges Navigation Administrative Bureau, told Xinhua. “Our preliminary investigations reveal that the deformation of the slide is most likely related to these reservoir fluctuations.”

Zhao Zongzheng, a county official, said he fears that the deformation could worsen when the reservoir is lowered to 144 metres in preparation for the approaching flood season. Although the crack is currently stable, heavy rainfall or unexpected seismic activity could trigger further deformation.

Three Gorges dam, the world’s biggest, was built in a geologically unstable area prone to landslides. In 2001, a survey by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission identified 1,320 zones in the area at risk of landslides. Senior water engineers warned that impounding a huge body of water in the 600-km-long reservoir could activate at least 760 landslips – many of which have since broken loose in Hubei province and beyond.

The county government said that by the end of October, new houses will be built for the Miaohe evacuees on a flat area just two kilometres from the reactivated landslide. Xinhua did not report where the displaced villagers will live between now and then.

original report

Posted in China, disaster, Environment, Family, housing, Life, News, People, River, Rural, Social, Three Gorges | 1 Comment »

China’s Longest River Extensively Polluted Beyond Repair

Posted by Author on April 16, 2007

Reuters, Apr 15, 2007-

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Three Gorges Dam reservoir has been fouled by pesticides, fertilizers and sewage, and more than 600 kilometers of the Yangtze river are critically polluted, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing a report.

The joint report by an institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the international WWF organization and the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission also said nearly 30 percent of the river’s major tributaries, including the Minjiang, Tuojiang, Xiangjiang and Huangpu rivers, were seriously polluted.

“The impact of human activities on the Yangtze water ecology is largely irreversible,” Yang Guishan, a researcher of the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the chief editors of the report, told Xinhua.

“It’s a pressing job to regulate such activities in all the Yangtze drainage areas and promote harmonious development of man and nature.”

China’s environment has suffered for years as the country has chased rapid economic growth, with little official attention given until recently to the threats of unfettered growth to the nation’s air, water and soil.

Last month at the opening session of the National People’s Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao called for economic growth goals to be balanced with protection of the environment.

Cities along the Yangtze annually dump at least 14.2 billion tons of waste into China’s longest waterway — which Xinhua said accounts for 35 percent of the country’s fresh water resources.

The river’s annual harvest of aquatic products dropped from 427,000 tons in the 1950s to about 100,000 tons in the 1990s, according to the joint study.

It also said the Three Gorges Dam reservoir, the world’s largest water storage facility, was seriously polluted by pesticides, fertilizers and sewage from passenger boats.

– Original report from Reuters: China’s Yangtze river extensively polluted: study

Posted in China, Economy, Environment, News, pollution, River, Social, Three Gorges, waste, water, Yangtze river | Comments Off on China’s Longest River Extensively Polluted Beyond Repair

Dams and Flood Control in China: Safety Insurance or Damocles Sword?

Posted by Author on February 16, 2007

by Fan Xiao, translated by Three Gorges Probe, January 29/2007- (cont’d)

Prof. Huang pointed to the flood disaster that occurred in Ankang, Shaanxi province (North-west China), in 1983. The city is located 200 kilometres upstream of the Danjiangkou dam on the Han River, a major Yangtze tributary. After the Danjiangkou dam was built in 1969, coarse pebbles began to accumulate in the river section below Ankang. When major rainstorms hit the region from July 27-31, 1983, the level of the Han River rose precipitously.

Ankang was caught in a “pincer attack” from upstream and downstream areas. Due to the heavy rainfall, operators of the Shiquan reservoir upstream of Ankang were forced to release water just as the water level in deep gorges below the city was also rising rapidly.

As a result, the entire city of Ankang was flooded on July 31, 1983, with disastrous consequences. Thousands of people died, including those who had tried to save themselves by climbing up to the fourth floor of apartment buildings.

In 2004, a similar flood disaster occurred in Chongqing municipality’s Kai county, in the heart of the Three Gorges reservoir area. A severe rainstorm hit the county and surrounding area on Sept 6, 2004. The Xiao River rose to 171.5 metres, 5.6 metres higher than the “warning” level and 2.3 metres above the historic high on the river.

The old county seat, which is to be relocated in 2007, was completely flooded, with water rising in the streets to a depth of 11 metres.

The big floods in Kai county worried Three Gorges project officials. As Lu Chun, vice-director of the office of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, observed: “How will we be able to deal with floods once the Three Gorges reservoir is filled to 175 metres [above sea level] given that when the reservoir was only at the 139-metre level, flood water had nowhere to go on the Xiao River? How will Kai county cope if a ‘500-year flood’ occurs in the region?”

Whether or not the Three Gorges project will in fact reduce the severity of floods on the Yangtze is still a matter of debate, but the dam was built to a height of 185 metres anyway. As the water level in the Three Gorges reservoir rises, however, this question will be answered in time. What we do not want to see is Prof. Huang Wanli’s warnings coming true. (to be cont’d…)

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original report from Three Gorges Probe

Posted in China, disaster, Environment, intellectual, News, NW China, Politics, River, Social, Technology, Three Gorges | Comments Off on Dams and Flood Control in China: Safety Insurance or Damocles Sword?

China’s Big Dams: Are They Safe?

Posted by Author on February 9, 2007

by Fan Xiao, translated by Three Gorges Probe, January 29/2007-

More than a third of China’s reservoirs are poorly constructed and dangerous, writes Sichuan geologist Fan Xiao, who describes them as “time bombs waiting to explode in the event of a severe flood or other unexpected occurrence.” In an article that first appeared in Chinese National Geographic magazine, he goes on to discuss geological disasters such as landslides and earthquakes that have been triggered by the filling of dam reservoirs. Below, an abridged version of the article, translated by Three Gorges Probe.

Dams and flood control: Safety insurance or Damocles sword?

It goes without saying that flood control is one of the most important functions a dam project can fulfill. However, it is unrealistic to build a dam expecting it to achieve a permanent solution to a flood problem.

The Three Gorges reservoir, for example, has a total storage capacity of 22.15 billion cubic metres. But if one takes into account the fact that 16.5 billion cubic metres of this capacity is given over to power generation and navigation on the Yangtze River, the project really has a flood-control capacity of only 5.65 billion cubic metres.

And even if its entire capacity of 22.15 billion cubic metres were to be dedicated to flood control, the dam could not do all that much because the total volume of flood water during the one-month flood peak on the Yangtze can be as much as 100 billion cubic metres.

Moreover, the dam is useless in controlling the floods that occur in the downstream region below the dam.

On flood control, Professor Huang Wanli strongly questioned the wisdom of building the Three Gorges dam. He warned that Chongqing harbour at the tail end of the Three Gorges reservoir would silt up with coarse pebbles after the reservoir was filled, causing more frequent and severe flooding in the densely populated region of Sichuan province and Chongqing municipality. (to be cont’d…)

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>> Dams and Flood Control in China: Safety Insurance or Damocles Sword?

original report from Three Gorges Probe

Posted in China, Economy, Environment, intellectual, Life, News, People, Politics, River, Social, Special report, Technology, Three Gorges | Comments Off on China’s Big Dams: Are They Safe?

China Three Gorges Dam Residents Resettlement Money ‘missing’

Posted by Author on January 26, 2007

BBC News, Friday, 26 January 2007-

Three GorgeMore than $30m has been embezzled from funds allocated for residents displaced by China’s Three Gorges Dam project, state media has said.

Chinese auditors said the money was misappropriated from funds allocated in 2004 and 2005, and warned the total figure could be even higher.

Corrupt local officials have long been rumoured to have pocketed money meant for the resettlement of residents.

Some 1.4 million people have been displaced by the massive dam project.

The national audit office said it believed 272m yuan ($34.8m) of 9.6bn yuan allocated in 2004 and 2005 had been misappropriated by local authorities, Xinhua news agency reports.

‘Inferior land’

The money should have been used for housing, construction and other services such as job training related to the resettlement of displaced residents.

Instead, it went to pay off the debts of other departments, staff salaries, build more offices and homes for people outside of the resettlement project, the audit office said.

Auditors also found cases of salaries for workers who did not exist and the unnecessary raising of building project costs.

They also warned that, since their process did not cover certain regions or take into account the 2006 funds, the final figure of misappropriated funds could be higher.

Work on the dam, set to be the world’s largest hydro-electric project, began in 1993. It is due to become fully operational by 2009.

China says it is necessary to provide electricity for its booming economy and help control flooding on the Yangtze River.

But campaigners say it comes at the expense of villagers, who in many cases have been resettled on inferior land and been deprived of compensation by corrupt local officials.

original report from BBC News

Expert urge China rethinking Three Gorges resettlement, Three Gorges Probe, September 20/2006

Posted in China, corruption, Economy, Environment, Family, housing, Law, Life, News, Official, People, Rural, Social, Three Gorges | Comments Off on China Three Gorges Dam Residents Resettlement Money ‘missing’

7 China Activists Honoured 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award

Posted by Author on January 14, 2007

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Dec. 2006-

Seven Chinese housing rights activists have been named joint recipients of the 2006COHRE Housing Rights Defender Award, for their commitment to and struggle for housing rights in China.

The Housing Rights Defender Award is presented annually by the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) to an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to the realisation of housing rights for all people.

For the first time since the inception of COHRE’s Housing Rights Defender Award in 2003, the award will be presented to a number of housing rights activists instead of to a single person. The joint recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award are: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalian; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Xu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong.

COHRE’s Executive Director (a.i.), Jean du Plessis, said, “These seven Chinese activists have displayed exemplary commitment, courage and perseverance in their struggles for the land and housing rights of hundreds of farmers, workers and residents in China. They are inspirational examples to every person, community and organisation working for the cause of human rights around the world.

“The Chinese Government is notoriously oppressive towards human rights activists. Land and housing rights violations including mass forced evictions are common, while legal remedies are scarce for those seeking to assert their rights.

“The work of these activists – undertaken at grave personal risk to them, their families and fellow activists – has played a catalytic role in bringing to light the unjust practices of the Chinese Government. COHRE is therefore honoured to present the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award to: Fu Xiancai; Ma Yalin; Liu Zhengyou; Huang Weizhong; Chen Xiaoming; Zu Zhengqing; and Zheng Enchong for their fearless commitment to housing rights in an environment that is hostile to such ideals.”

A newly released COHRE report, Forced Evictions: Violations of Human Rights – Global Survey No. 10, reveals that over 647,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in China since 2003.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security recently reported that the Chinese Government had requisitioned land from 40 million farmers in the past decade, at the same time admitting a 20 per cent increase in cases of illegal land seizures in the first five months of 2006.

The number of public protests has increased from 74 000 in 2004 to 87 000 in 2005, in spite of ongoing cases of police intimidation, arbitrary arrest, and torture of activists.

All seven activists have been subjected to ongoing intimidation, harassment and even beatings for their housing and land rights activities.

For example, Fu Xiancai, who has worked for a decade to obtain appropriate compensation for 1.3 million people forced to relocate from their land and houses due to the Three Gorges Dam Project, has been severely injured and nearly lost his life, as a result of his work. Fu was struck from behind with a heavy object by an unknown person on his way home from an interrogation by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in June 2006. The assault destroyed three vertebrae in his neck and has left him paralysed from shoulders down. He lost control of all bodily functions except his ability to speak. Just weeks previously, Fu had given an interview to German public broadcaster ARD about the Three Gorges Dam Project and the plight of the affected communities.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the whereabouts of another of the Award recipients, Chen Xiaoming, is not known since he was arrested in February 2006 by police officers from Shanghai’s Luwan District PSB. Chen, who taught himself law in order to contest the government’s actions against the housing rights of the poor, was arrested for meeting with an American diplomat to discuss problems faced by evictees.

Zheng Enchong, a lawyer who advised victims of forced evictions in Shanghai, had his license to practice law revoked by Shanghai City authorities in 2001, after he had argued for amendments to Article 10 of the People’s Republic of China’s Constitution in order to offer better protection to the land and housing rights of inhabitants. Despite losing his formal license, Zheng continued to assist nearly 500 people who had been forcibly evicted from their homes and/or had failed to receive adequate compensation for their evictions. Zheng was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in 2003 for advising a group of evicted Shanghai residents who were trying to bring a case alleging corruption against Zhou Zhengyi, a prominent Shanghai property developer. Upon Zheng’s release in June 2006, he was placed under de facto house arrest and continues to be subject to harassment.

Meanwhile, both Huang Weizhong and Xu Zhengqing are currently serving three-year prison sentences for their activism. Ma Yalian was sentenced to 18 months in a ‘Re-Education Through Labour’ (RETL) camp for publishing an article on the Internet titled “A True Record of Being Turned Away from the National Petitioners and Letters Office and the Petitioners Bureau of the National People’s Congress,” and was released in August 2005 after serving her full term. Liu Zhengyou, who was arrested in June 2006 when he tried to board a flight to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend a human rights training session, and has been subjected to repeated beatings, threats and harassment by the police.

COHRE’s Du Plessis said, “The situation with respect to housing rights in China is desperate, with many millions of people having lost their homes and land over the past decade, in both cities and the rural areas. In spite of a highly oppressive environment, the seven recipients of the 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award have stood up for the rights of those affected, at great personal cost. In presenting this award to these seven people, COHRE recognises and honours their extraordinary courage, determination and dedication to the cause of housing rights.”

– more details about the Seven Chinese housing rights activists’ personal information can be found from COHRE’s report here.

Posted in Activist, China, City resident, East China, Economy, Environment, Europe, Event, Forced Evictions, Fu Xiancai, housing, Human Rights, Law, Lawyer, Life, News, Opinion, People, Politics, Rural, shanghai, Social, Speech, Three Gorges, World, Zheng Enchong | Comments Off on 7 China Activists Honoured 2006 Housing Rights Defender Award

U.S. Reporters Detained by China While Interviewing Source

Posted by Author on December 31, 2006

Committee to Protest Journalists, Dec. 20, 2006-

Joseph Kahn, The New York Times
Roger Cohen, International Herald Tribune

Agents from the local police, Foreign Ministry office and Customs Department detained Kahn, The New York Times Beijing bureau chief, and International Herald Tribune reporter Roger Cohen while they were interviewing a businessman in Zigui, near the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province.

The agents questioned the two journalists about their reporting activities, confiscated their passports and asked them to write “confessions,” according to The New York Times. The two men were held for an hour before being released.

The harassment of the two reporters came one day after the Chinese government announced new regulations easing restrictions on foreign journalists reporting in China ahead of Beijing’s hosting the Olympic Games in 2008.

Those regulations will go into effect from January 1, 2007 until October 17, 2008, after the Games end, and will allow foreign reporters to conduct interviews without permission from local authorities. ( – original report here )

Posted in China, Human Rights, Journalist, Law, Media, News, Official, People, Politics, Social, Speech, Three Gorges, World | Comments Off on U.S. Reporters Detained by China While Interviewing Source

German Chancellor Shows Concern for China Paralyzed Activist

Posted by Author on December 31, 2006

By Fang Xiao, Epoch Times, Dec 30, 2006-

CHINA—Two officials from the German Embassy in Beijing brought Christmas presents on behalf of the German ambassador to Fu Xiancai, an advocate of resettlement rights for the Three Gorges Dam project, who was hospitalized in the Beijing Rehabilitation Center. They expressed the concerns of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for Fu’s condition and treatment.

Fu told the Epoch Times journalist that at 3:00 p.m. on December 22, two officials from the German Embassy in Beijing brought Christmas presents to him and wished him and his family a happy Christmas. The officials also said that he could seek help from the Embassy if he encounters difficulties during treatment. They especially conveyed the German Chancellor’s concern for his condition and treatment.

The Chinese communist regime acquired lands for the Three Gorges Dam project in the early 1990s. As a result, Fu was relocated to Zigui County, Hubei Province in 1993. Because corrupt local officials embezzled much of the land compensation fund meant for relocated residents, Fu and other representatives appealed for over 1.3 million relocated residents on many occasions. They were thus frequently persecuted by the related official organizations.

On May 19 when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China, Fu was interviewed by ARD-GTS, a German TV station. Afterwards, he was attacked by unknown hoodlums and his body was paralyzed from the neck down. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their concern regarding this incident. They have asked the Chinese communist regime to give an explanation on the incident.

Aided by German media and Human Rights in China , Fu was transferred to the Beijing Rehabilitation Center for treatment. He told the Epoch Times reporter that his recovery was progressing after 3 months of treatment. He has regained the sense of feeling in his chest. Though he still could not move his arms and fingers, but some sense of feeling has come back. His legs which were numb two weeks ago started to have sense of feeling also. But he noted that recently he felt discomfort in his stomach area.

During the interview, Fu’s voice was still quite weak and he had to ask his son to convey his words to the reporter. ( original report by the Epoch Times)

Posted in Activist, Beijing, China, corruption, Fu Xiancai, Health, Human Rights, Law, News, People, Politics, Social, Three Gorges, World | Comments Off on German Chancellor Shows Concern for China Paralyzed Activist

China Three Gorges Activist’s Open Letter On Assault Case

Posted by Author on December 25, 2006

Press release, Human Rights in China, December 18, 2006-

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Three Gorges activist Fu Xiancai has sent an open letter to China’s Procurator-general, Jia Chunwang, requesting his intervention into Fu’s assault case.

An outspoken advocate for villagers of Zigui County, Hubei Province, displaced for the Three Gorges Dam, Fu Xiancai was struck in the back of the neck by an unknown assailant on June 8, 2006, after local police questioned him over an interview with Fu broadcasted by German television station Das Erste in May.

Suffering from paralysis from the shoulders down, Fu was sent to Yichang No. 1 People’s Hospital, where he received an operation paid for by the German government.

Further interventions and contributions from the public and German media resulted in Fu being transferred to Beijing’s China Rehabilitation Research Center for further treatment and therapy, and Fu is now able to sit upright in a wheelchair, although he still has no feeling from the waist down, and has only limited movement in his hands.

As reported in previous press releases, the local investigation into Fu’s attack concluded that Fu’s injuries had resulted from a fall. Fu had submitted formal requests to have the local Public Security Bureau head and certain other officers removed from the investigation on the grounds that they were implicated in previous instances of threats and harassment against him. However, he has received no response to his requests.

In his appeal to the Procurator-general, Fu Xiancai concludes:

Since I am a Chinese citizen, I should have the right to appeal to the Chinese government for help. Therefore, you are my last hope, Jia Chunwang, Procurator-general of the People’s Procuratorate. I hope that you will be a representative of judicial fairness in China. Indeed, I expect you to be a symbol of judicial fairness in China. Please give this handicapped villager displaced by the Three Gorges Dam project a glimmer of hope for the rule of law.

A full translation of Fu Xiancai’s open letter is attached to this press release.

Fu Xiancai’s open letter highlights the need for stronger respect for the rule of law and transparent processes in China. HRIC remains seriously concerned about the results of the Zigui Public Security Bureau investigation, which was seriously flawed because it was carried out by the same people who were implicated in previous attacks against Fu Xiancai. HRIC urges the city and provincial authorities to order a new, transparent and independent investigation that will ensure there is no impunity for these kinds of physical attacks on human rights defenders.

Attachment: Full English translation of Fu Xiancai’s open letter available here ( in PDF)

German intervention puts injured China activist in top hospital, Human Rights in China, September 18, 2006

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China Dam Protester Put to Death in Secret, Rushed Execution

Posted by Author on December 13, 2006

by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe, December 7/2006-

A 20-year-old who took part in angry local protests against the Pubugou dam in Sichuan province two years ago was executed last week, with neither his family nor his lawyer notified beforehand. Chen Yongzhong, the father of the executed prisoner, learned of his son’s fate only when police instructed him to collect the young man’s ashes and pay a 50-yuan “bullet fee,” the Chinese-language news website reported.

Observers speculated that authorities in Sichuan may have hastened to carry out the death sentence against Chen Tao before a new national law comes into force next month.

On Jan. 1, China’s Supreme People’s Court will assume final authority for capital-punishment decisions, taking that power away from provincial courts.

The move has been welcomed by human-rights campaigners, who hope it will prevent at least some wrongful executions and force central authorities to take responsibility for all death-penalty verdicts. China executes several thousand people every year, more than any other country.

Chen Tao was one of four demonstrators arrested as a result of protests by tens of thousands of people that convulsed Sichuan’s Hanyuan county in October and November 2004.

It was one of the most serious outbreaks of rural unrest in China since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

Outraged local farmers staged days-long sit-ins and demonstrations to protest meagre compensation terms offered for farmland requisitioned for the Pubugou dam, which is flooding 100,000 people out of their homes. The farmers also complained of official corruption in the Pubugou resettlement program.

The 186-metre-high dam is being built on the Dadu River, a Yangtze tributary, by the Guodian Group, one of China’s “big five” power companies. Construction of the 3300 MW hydropower project is due to be completed in 2010.

As many as 10,000 riot police were deployed to quell the unrest in the fall of 2004, and Mr. Chen was convicted of “deliberately killing” one of the officers.

Three other men were jailed in the case, with one — Cai Zhao — receiving a life sentence.

Cai Zhao’s defence lawyer, Ran Tong, was incensed when he learned on Monday (Dec. 4) of Chen Tao’s execution, which took place on Nov. 28.

“I received the sentence sheet containing the defendants’ names and sentences, already carried out,” he was quoted as saying.

“The court had sentenced them in June, but behind closed doors, and we only got the information almost half a year later. We were not able to defend our clients, and I strongly oppose the court not respecting the spirit of the law.”

He wrote four big Chinese characters across the sentencing document: qiang lie kang yi — “vehemently protest.”

Mr. Ran was quoted by VOA’s Chinese service as saying that Sichuan judicial officials have violated Chinese law in the case. He condemned Mr. Chen’s secret trial and secret execution as unworthy of the communist system.

Chen Tao was sentenced to death by the Ya’an Intermediate People’s Court in May 2005. His lawyer, Feng Yubing, then submitted an appeal to Sichuan’s top court. Chen Tao’s family and lawyer were still awaiting word on the appeal from the Sichuan Higher People’s Court when the execution was carried out.

The decision to implement the death sentence was taken on June 5 of this year, but neither Mr. Chen’s relatives nor his lawyer were ever informed of the ruling, VOA reports.

Veteran journalist and anti-dam campaigner Dai Qing expressed outrage at Mr. Chen’s execution.

“This young man was subjected to a secret trial and killed with a bullet to the head before his loved ones were given a chance to see him,” she said.

“Let’s ask the authorities in Sichuan: Do you think that by executing Chen Tao you can intimidate the people affected by the Pubugou dam?

“Do you think that by doing this you can put the funds earmarked for resettlement and the revenue generated by the dam into your own pockets?

“And do you think that the central government is going to turn a blind eye to your misconduct, and ignore the concerns that will be raised about this case by many, many people, inside and outside of China?”

Posted in China, Environment, Human Rights, Law, News, Official, People, Politics, Rural, Social, SW China, Three Gorges | Comments Off on China Dam Protester Put to Death in Secret, Rushed Execution

China secretly executes anti- dam protester

Posted by Author on December 12, 2006

By Clifford Coonan in Beijing, The Independent, UK, 07 December 2006-

Chinese officials have secretly executed a demonstrator who took part in a massive protest in 2004 against a hydro-electric dam in the south-western province of Sichuan, lawyers and family members said yesterday.

In a grim postscript to the summer of rural unrest that overtook China two years ago, Chen Tao was executed for “deliberately killing” a riot policeman during the demonstration, when 100,000 farmers staged a sit-in against the building of the 186-metre-high Pubugou dam on the Dadu river in Hanyuan county. The dam was set to flood thousands of people out of their homes and there were complaints that compensation was inadequate.

It was one of 74,000 “mass incidents” across the country that year – often-violent protests and riots over land-grabs, illegal pollution and official corruption. The scale of predominantly rural unrest prompted the Beijing government to introduce a number of measures aimed at reducing the wealth gap in China.

Chen was one of four men jailed after the huge demonstration. Cai Dengming, whose son was Chen’s co-defendant, told the Reuters news agency that he had been executed.

“When I went to the Ya’an jail to visit my son this week, the officer there told me that Chen Tao had been executed,” he said. His son, Cai Zhao, was jailed for life in the same case.

Another villager, Gao Qiansong, was jailed for three years for his alleged role in leading the protests against the dam, which will be the country’s fifth-largest hydro-electric plant, with a capacity of 3.3 million kilowatts when it is completed in 2010.

The group’s defence lawyer, Ran Tong, said he had only found out about the verdicts on Monday, when he received the sentence sheet containing the sentences of all the defendants. “We were not able to defend our clients, and I strongly oppose the court not respecting the spirit of the law,” he said.

The death sentence is carried out swiftly after conviction, generally by a bullet to the back of the head. China executes more people than any other country.

Nearly 10,000 People’s Armed Police were sent to the dam site to stop the demonstrations. One policeman was killed. The protests led to a purge of local officials for corruption. The former vice-mayor of Ya’an, Tang Fujin, was accused of accepting 2.5m yuan (£260,000) in bribes.

Posted in China, Environment, Human Rights, Incident, Killing, Law, News, People, Politics, Protest, Riot, Rural, Social, SW China, Three Gorges | Comments Off on China secretly executes anti- dam protester

Quakes jolt Three Gorges area as huge reservoir fills

Posted by Author on November 11, 2006

by Kelly Haggart, Three Gorges Probe, October 30/2006-

The strongest earthquake to hit China’s Hubei province in two decades shook an area near the Three Gorges dam on Friday, the same day the project’s rising reservoir reached the 2006 target of 156 metres above sea level.

State media said no one was seriously hurt in the magnitude 4.7 quake, which struck at 6:52 p.m. Friday [Oct. 27]. The tremor damaged thousands of houses and forced 5,860 people to leave their homes, the Beijing Morning Post reported. Local governments were said to be providing tents and quilts.

The quake was centred in Suizhou city’s Sanligang township, 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of the Three Gorges project, but it rocked buildings in Yichang city near the dam, China News Service reported.

More than 50 aftershocks were recorded over the weekend, including a magnitude 4.2 quake on Saturday.

Seismologists monitoring the situation have “ruled out” the possibility of another, stronger quake hitting the region, the official Xinhua news agency said Sunday.

Just hours before the quake struck Friday, Xinhua announced that the Three Gorges reservoir had reached the 156-metre mark at 9:50 that morning.

The operation to raise the reservoir from 135 metres above sea level began on Sept. 20. Small tremors have jolted the area in the past few weeks, including a magnitude 3.0 quake on Oct. 15, Xinhua reported.

The Three Gorges dam is situated near two major fault lines, and project officials say the structure has been built to withstand powerful tremors.

However, the danger of impounding such a vast reservoir in a seismically active region worries experts, and has been a key argument raised against the dam. The Three Gorges reservoir will eventually stretch for 660 kilometres (400 miles) behind the dam.

Around the world, earthquakes have both damaged dams and been caused by them. “Reservoir-induced seismicity” has been recorded even in areas with no previous history of tremors.

In one such case, a reservoir in western India triggered a magnitude 6.3 quake in 1967 that killed 200 people and seriously damaged the Koyna dam.

More than 1,000 minor quakes were detected after the Three Gorges reservoir was filled to the 135-metre level in June 2003, with the biggest recorded at around magnitude 3.0, Three Gorges Corp. deputy general manager Cao Guangjing was quoted as saying by Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po on Sunday.

An increase in seismic activity had been anticipated, Mr. Cao said, and he expressed confidence that the frequency of tremors in the region would return to normal in time.

Wen Wei Po also quoted Chen Yuntai, director of the Institute of Geophysics at the Chinese Earthquake Administration, as saying: “We can’t be sure that the earthquakes were caused by the filling of the reservoir, and we need to undertake advanced monitoring and analysis.”

The Three Gorges reservoir is set to rise a further 19 metres to 175 metres above sea level before the dam becomes fully operational, probably by the end of 2008.

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Award-winning Filmmaker on the forgotten people of Three Gorges(3)

Posted by Author on November 6, 2006

Three Gorges Probe,  October 16/2006- (cont’d)

TGP: Did you run into any trouble from local officials when you were filming in the area?

Jia: No, not really, because they believed the furor had died down after 2002, with the media not doing much of anything there after that. So they didn’t interfere — nor did they offer any help — and we were able to go freely about our business.

I know they had been very nervous in 2002, when there was so much media activity in the area, as well as intense discussion about the project’s negative impacts. Local officials really felt in hot water at that time and made a point of keeping the situation tightly under control. Now, however, the Three Gorges is a quiet area, with all the concern about it appearing to have passed.

We got there at the tail end of the period of media attention. We went to the project site and got some shots of the dam, but we make little comment in the film on the project itself. Our focus is on the events and changes taking place behind the scenes of the big dam. The project is a reality now, so it makes more sense to focus on how it has affected people’s lives. We’re trying to show the audience how much vitality exists among the people of the Three Gorges area, how they are facing challenges, making decisions and, moreover, finding freedom and enhanced self-esteem in doing so.

TGP: Does the experience of migration relate at all to your own family background?

Jia: I’m not from the Three Gorges area myself, but from Shanxi province. My grandfather moved to Tianjin, a port city where many people from Shanxi migrated to do business. He ran a traditional Chinese medicine business there, but later returned to Shanxi in 1949 after the founding of the People’s Republic.

TGP: Will the movie be shown in China?

Jia: Yes, we’ve already received official approval, so there shouldn’t be any problem. I’m hoping it will be in cinemas before the 2007 [Chinese] New Year. It will open first in 10 big cities, and after that hopefully will be shown in smaller towns and rural areas as well.
TGP: Will your big win in Venice help you in some way in your work, perhaps with funding?

Jia: Maybe, though we haven’t had to worry about funding. We’re financially supported by three companies, from Japan, Hong Kong and France. (to be cont’d…)

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Hot on news: “Still Life” win Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival

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Award-winning Filmmaker on the forgotten people of Three Gorges(2)

Posted by Author on October 30, 2006

Three Gorges Probe, October 16/2006- (cont’d)

TGP: Why did you choose the Three Gorges project as backdrop?

Jia: In my view, the time of biggest change in the Three Gorges area was 2000 to 2002, when the mass resettlement was really under way, houses were being demolished and people relocated. At that time the media, from inside and outside China, went to the area and bombarded us with images of the dam being built, houses being torn down and people being moved.

But then the media withdrew, and the Three Gorges, both the people and the place, were forgotten. Nobody cared about them any more. It was at that time that we went to the area. We were interested in how people there were living their lives, how they had been affected by the big dam.

What we saw, behind the scenes of the big project, were the problems and difficulties people faced after relocation. And the changes they experienced — having their houses demolished and being resettled, with the construction of the dam going on in the background — look a lot like changes being experienced by people all over China. And so, in a sense, the changes occurring in the Three Gorges area represent the changes taking place in China as a whole.

The movie deals with changes occurring in the environment on the one hand, and with human freedom and modernization on the other hand. People usually attach a great deal of importance to changes happening in the external environment, such as demolition, resettlement and construction, while ignoring the changes occurring in the inner world of the same people. We are trying to shift the focus onto people’s thoughts and feelings, as their fates are shaped both by the Three Gorges project and the changes that are taking place in the country as a whole.

TGP: In Chinese, the movie is called Sanxia Haoren (The Good People of Three Gorges), while in English the title has nothing to do with Three Gorges. Why is that?

Jia: The movie is divided into four parts, titled Cigarettes, Wine, Tea and Sugar — four basic substances on which Chinese people depend, and which also bring joy and happiness to ordinary people in a really simple way. They play an important role in people’s lives and interpersonal relationships. It’s normal for friends in China to exchange a cigarette or a bottle of wine. However, we found that people in the Three Gorges area were living really simple lives, with many households often lacking the basics. And the more times people had been moved, the poorer they had become.

On the other hand, people there are still full of a vital life force, and burning with desire for better lives. So “Still Life” refers to the simple life people are leading, as simple as a still-life painting of a few objects placed quietly and unobtrusively on a table. That’s what life’s like in the Three Gorges area, where people have largely been ignored and forgotten now that all the hubbub there has died down. What we did in shooting the film was to show a reality that has been ignored, rather like a photographer snapping pictures of a still life. ( to be cont’d…)

Page: 1 2 3

Hot on news: “Still Life” win Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival

Posted in China, Environment, Life, People, Report, Rural, Social, Three Gorges, TV / film | Comments Off on Award-winning Filmmaker on the forgotten people of Three Gorges(2)

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