NEW YORK --A study has recently been released that documents serious deficiencies in the largest resettlement program in the history of dam building, according to the International Rivers Network, a watchdog organization that opposes large dams.
The Chinese authorities "will have to rely on the military or a man-made flood to force people out of their homes" in the first stage of inundation of the reservoir behind the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, according to a Chinese official involved in the dam's resettlement effort quoted in the study released by the International Rivers Network (IRN) and Human Rights in China (HRIC).
The investigation was carried out by Wu Ming, a Chinese sociologist with extensive experience in evaluating resettlement programs, according to IRN. The study covers 5 of 22 counties to be partly inundated by the dam's reservoir and reveals widespread mismanagement, such as corruption and falsification of resettlement figures; inadequate relocation plans, including insufficient compensation for farmland and jobs; and systematic discrimination against rural residents in awarding financial and material compensation.
As a result, in five years only some 5O,000 people have been relocated, Wu Ming estimates. By 2003, if the project moves ahead, over half a million people will be displaced, with an equal number to be moved by 2009, according to IRN.
"The Chinese government must immediately relax controls over reporting about resettlement and allow affected people to organize to protect their own interests if it wants to avert a disaster," says Sophia Woodman, Research Director of Human Rights in China. "The current situation in the Three Gorges area demonstrates once again the destructive effects of suppressing the voices of ordinary people. Restrictions on freedom of expression and association, such as those in China, mean that people whose economic and social rights are under threat may have no way to protect themselves."
"The International community shares the blame for this emerging human rights tragedy," says Owen Lammers, IRN's Executive Director. He said European and Canadian export credit agencies have guaranteed loans for China to purchase needed equipment and technology from General Electric, Siemens and others, while Wall Street firms are funnelling money through the State Development Bank of China to assist with the dam's financing. "These governments and companies must be held accountable, and called on to cease support for this reservoir of despair."
The complete study "Major Problems in Three Gorges Dam Resettlement Program" is available online at www.im.org and www.hrichina.org.
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